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ME. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 



ME. BEYANT'S MISTAKE 



BY 



KATHARINE WYLDE 

AUTHOR OF 'a dreamer,' * AN ILL-REGULATED MIND,' ETC. 




IN THREE VOLUMES— VOL. IT 



LONDON 

RICHARD BENTLEY & SON, NEW BURLINGTON ST, 

publisJjers in ©rtjtnarp to l^tr ilHajcstg tfjc ©ucm 
1890 



All rights reserved 



f^3 



' And the gusty "kviinls wakeil tlie winged seeds 
Out of their birthplace of ugly weeds, 
Till they clun^ round niauy a sweet flower's stem. 



CONTENTS 



PART V 

PAGE 

Reflection ........ 1 



PART VI 

The Turn of the Tide 87 

PART VII 

Evil News Rides Post . .187 

PART vm 

Doubting Castle . . . . . 255 



PAET V 
REFLECTION 



VOL. II 20 



ME. BEYANT'S MISTAKE 



CHAPTEE I 

On the morrow of that eventful day every one had 
to pick up the thread of liis life and go on as if 
nothing had happened. 

Mrs. Leach gave her children and friends a 
wondrous account of her adventure on the line, and, 
to her great satisfaction, became credited with the 
family power of working miracles. For to keep the 
story in her own hands, as it were, she suppressed 
for the present all reference to the Tanswick beer- 
shop, to her anxious niece, and to the strong arm 
of Sir Vincent Leicester. In her version she had 
been overcome by a draught of Inspiredness ; Xannie 
was her guardian angel grown visible ; and Sir 
Vincent, the archangel Michael, with the body of 
Moses m his hand. Lizzie and some of the neigh- 
bours believed it all. Mrs. Leach wished no one to 
suspect she had been drinking ; on no account would 



4 MR. Bryant's mistake 

she sign the pledge to-day, lest any connection should 
be guessed between the two events ; but she in- 
wardly decided, being alarmed by Alick's preaching 
and by her own adventure, that repentance and a new 
life had become absolutely necessary. So she put 
on her best clothes and a pious countenance, took her 
Bible in her hand, and went out to visit the poor. 

Nannie gave no particulars of what had occurred. 
No one seemed curious on the subject, and she had 
no wish to be questioned about its sequel. None of 
these home people were in her confidence, and how 
could she make any one understand the wild joy 
that possessed her heart at the unexpected, the 
beautiful thing that had happened to her ? He 
loved her ; and they had kissed each other ! Was 
it not enough to make her happy for the rest of her 
life ? even though ' it came to nothing.' For Nannie 
could not see any way in which their love could 
get any further. While she had leaned on his 
breast on the moor- side, where they had been so 
nearly killed together, he had not seemed so very 
far away ; but no sooner was she at home and 
darning her father's stockings, very silently with a 
pensive smile playing round her lips, than she 
recognised that she was in her right, her only place, 
and that, alas ! there was no position in her sphere 
for liim. The impossible was very sweet, but she 
dared not think that even a boaxding school, or a 



REFLECTION " 5 

dancing-master, or Murray's Grammar (vague notions 
of which vulgarities were oppressing Vincent, and 
already casting a shadow on the delicate brightness 
of his sea-nymph), could ever make it attainable. 
' But oh ! I do so wish I had been a lady !' was the 
refrain of her cogitations ; which had perhaps been 
sadder but for his ring burning her throat unseen ; 
an earnest that he was going to speak to her just 
once more of love. 

Alick, the holy martyr, had had time for reflection 
in the police-cell, where he lay awaiting the judg- 
ment of the Bench of Tanswick magistrates on his 
Attempted Suicide ; then the snuffy old Mr. Sand- 
ford and his coadjutors sat upon him, and Sir 
Vincent and others appeared against him, but said 
they did not wish the charge pressed ; so he was 
dismissed with a caution not to do it again, and Sir 
Vincent drove the martyr home in his own dogcart, 
trying to talk the matter over friendlily and reason- 
ably, and finding Alick very respectful, very meek, 
and very obstinate. 

' Will you read a few books on philosophy, Alick, 
if I give them to you ? ' 

' No, sir, thank you kindly. '' The world by 
wisdom knew not God." ' 

' But the world by wisdom knows itself. That 
is the beginning and end of philosophy.' 

' Ay, sir ; but I want something a bit higher than 



6 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

myself. I am a worm and no man ; my righteous- 
nesses are filthy rags and my strength a shadow. 
You need not fear as the devil shall make me exalt 
myself, sir.' Vincent looked at the quiet sincere 
face not unadmiringiy. He suggested that Alick 
should consult Mr. Bryant. But Alick heaved a 
sigh, and said sorrowfully — 

' i pray God, sir, you ain't been thinking too 
highly of Mr. Bryant.' 

At which Ymcent waxed impatient, and said : 
' Upon my soul, Alick, you think you are the 
only righteous man in the country !' 

Alick was received by a dozen disciples, who 
followed him to his home and wherever he went; 
and in the evening he learned that a subscription 
had been started to support him for a fortnight, if 
he would leave his handicraft and devote himself to 
preaching and healing. 

It may be imagined that Alick Eandle, thus firmly 
seated on the prophetic stool, showed no disposition 
to relent towards Mr. Bryant, the liar ; who had 
fought with seven devils, and had been worsted by 
them without his own knowledge. For the clergyman 
was not aware, once his spirits had revived with the 
certainty that no one had seen him run away and 
that Mrs. Leach and Nannie were safe in their homes, 
what a crisis that evening had been in his moral 
history. On the contrary, he believed himself come to 



REFLECTION 7 

terms with his foe ; certain things he would do and 
certain things he would not do ; the de\dls were not 
to be too hard upon him, and make him a coward 
and a murderer because, for the sake of his dear wife 
and his showy daughter and his own gentility, some 
economy of the truth was necessary ! Mr. Bryant 
thought himself altogether in the w^ay of repentance ; 
and so (as the miserable fanatic was not to be pacified 
in any other way) he one evening actually presented 
himself at the Heights to make to Sir Vincent a 
statement of facts. And as he stood in his patron's 
library, he looked all that was virtuous and Christian 
and gentleman -like. 'Tis unfortunate when the 
countenance involuntarily assumes merits the heart 
has not ; the fact is sure to suggest a resource in 
season of difficulty. 

Mr. Bryant's opening remarks about private 
affairs and discovery that his means of usefulness in 
Everwell were sadly crippled, were unenlightening, 
and indeed a little tedious to Vincent, who was 
thinking hard of his own matters, and building 
diligently castle after castle in impossible and unsafe 
regions of air. 

' What is the man driving at ?' he asked himself 
impatiently ; and then he started, for the clergyman 
addressed him directly on the subject of Georgina ; 
whose coming with her father to Everwell had been, 
under the circumstances, undesirable — most un- 



8 MR. BR Y ant's MISTAKE 

desirable ; and against Mr. Bryant's wish, though 
a matter of absolute necessity. ' But, my dear lad,' 
and the clergyman rose and put his arm through 
that of the unwilling Vincent, who, to his great 
annoyance, felt himself flushing, ' you must permit 
me, while we are on this subject, to say one word 
more. If you could only manage to ignore Georgie 
a bit ! I fear my little woman will never learn 
to estimate rightly a certain piece of folly on your 
part last year, if you haven't the strength of mind 
to conceal your — what shall I say ? — admiration for 
her better than this. Of course I know,' continued 
Mr. Bryant, with his air of dignified humility, ' that 
you have recognised the sense of my objections to 
your proposals last year ; but I am getting seriously 
afraid that you have not made this fact clear 
to Georgina, poor child ; and besides it is not 
pleasant to me to have strangers remarking on your 
manner to her, and forming entirely erroneous 
opinions as to your intentions.' 

Vincent was not sharp enough to discern Mr. 
Bryant's motive in thus accentuating his entangle- 
ment with Georgina before telling the detestable 
news ; but he proved even more matter-of-fact 
and stupid than the clergyman had wished ; for he 
received the scolding in the letter and not in the 
spirit, made no attempt to combat his friend's 
' objections ' to his pretensions, and stammered some- 



REFLECTIOX 9 

tiling about 'regret' and 'amendment,' which was the 
very opposite of what Mr. Bryant had wished. And 
then there was a pause ; and Vincent's thoughts 
flew back to Xannie again ; and he ardently wished 
Mr. Bryant would go away. 

' I must explain my position a little,' said the 
clerg}'man at last ; ' your conduct to Georgina is 
not my only reason for wishing to leave Everwell.' 

* But you mustn't leave Everwell,' cried Vincent, 
recovering his good humour ; ' we should have Alick 
crowned Pope in a week !' 

* You will be surprised,' continued Mr. Bryant ; 
you will perhaps wonder that I have not told you 

before. But really, if it had not been for a most 
singular coincidence, I do not see that I should have 
mentioned the matter at all. I have found relations 
at Everwell, Sir Vincent.' 

The clerg}'man's manner suggested something 
unpleasant ; and the moment his wife was men- 
tioned Vincent began to understand. Ah, his wife ! 
People got into a convenient habit of ignoring Mrs. 
Bryant, but true, there she always was, large as life, 
and when one came to think of it, * a little under- 
bred.' And now ]Mr. Bryant went on : ' The fact is, 
my dear wife is not — well, I have no doubt you 
have perceived what I would say. She was a most 
beautiful, enchanting, excellent creature. Young 
men are romantic sometimes, as you are aware ; and 



lo MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

must not complain when they are elderly, if their 
romantic actions entail certain little inconveniences. 
But I had no idea that I should find my brother- 
in-law, Benjamin Eandle, living at Ever well.' 

' Eandle ! ' ejaculated Vincent, so much startled 
that a silence was necessary for both parties to 
arrange their thoughts. Mr. Bryant felt nearly mad 
with chagrin ; for the young man's tone as he 
repeated the name seemed to him to say, ' That is 
far worse than I had expected.' 

Of course it was not Vincent's thought. Nannie 
was the centre of his present being, and involun- 
tarily he referred every word, every trivial event 
to its unseen connection with her. A feeling of 
positive relief and elation shot through him. If 
Nannie were related to such a superior person as 
the clergyman, what exception could any one take to 
her ? And if a dignitary of Mr. Bryant's reputa- 
tion had done the very thing he was contemplating 
for himself, had married a farmer's daughter, surely 
his own position was precedented, simple, and 
natural ? Views so ludicrously unreal that they 
dissolved instantaneously. 

When one has been startled, feeling and thought 
swing wildly from extreme to extreme, and Vincent's 
momentary satisfaction was succeeded by a sense of 
intolerable irritation and disgust. A shiver ran 
down his back, for it suddenly occurred to him 



REFLECTION ii 

that there was a family likeness between Mrs. 
Bryant and his own adorable Nannie. Good 
heavens ! it was surely impossible that the lovely 
girl could turn into a person like that ! But 
Mr. Bryant was talking on ; explaining away very 
plausibly his denial of Ann Leach when first con- 
fronted by her — ' So changed from what she was 
that we neither of us recognised her ' — ' to my poor 
wife and myself that woman's propinquity a terrible 
infliction ' — and so forth. Till Vincent interrupted 
with a sudden burst of harsh, unmirthful laughter. 
To think that conventional gentlemen like Mr. 
Bryant and himself could ever be connected with 
Mrs. Leach ! In his own grating laugh Vincent 
heard the laughter of the world when he should 
have his peasant bride; who was like Mrs. Bryant, 
cousin to the Methodist ranter, and niece to Mrs. 
Leach ! ' It will be impossible to marry Xannie ! ' 
said his depressed spirit. 

Mr. Bryant, who had not the clue to Sir Vincent's 
amusement, stopped short in his explanations, with 
a shudder. 



CHAPTEE II 

No doubt the clergyman's w^as the sanguine tempera- 
ment, and hope sprang eternal in his breast. Sir 



1 2 MR. BR YANT S MIS TA KE 

Vincent's laugh flattened his spirits for a few 
minutes ; but presently he began to think it 
mere ill manners ; for his patron shook his hand 
no less civilly than usual at parting, and his last 
words were really cordial : ' What the deuce is there 
in all this to drive you away from Everwell ? ' 

Before the day was over Mr. Bryant had decided 
not to flee from his parish in too great a hurry, 
and his resolution to obtain the young baronet for a 
son-in-law was sprouting again green as ever. For 
this is how Georgina received her father's unpleasant 
news. 

' I really do think, papa,' she said, ' you must 
have been out of your mind to make such a mes- 
alliance as that.' 

' Georgina, it is not your place to make the 
remark,' he replied, chafing horribly. She wept ; at 
least Mr. Bryant thought so. 

' Dearest, dearest papa ! Forgive me ! No, no, 
I should not reproach you when I know you are 
suffering yourself from your mistake. But I can't 
help feeling it most dreadfully. I have been used 
to such a very different sort of people. Papa, dear, 
if I have to associate with — farmers' daughters, 
what will Lady Katharine think ? and — oh, papa — 
Vincent .? ' she sobbed. 

' You'll have to give Vincent up, my poor child.' 

'Oh, I can't — I carCtl mourned Georgina, in 



REFLECTION 13 

heart-broken accents ; ' I — I love him so ! ' Poor 
Mr. Bryant ! He had not expected this. 

' My child ! My poor, dear child ! ' he exclaimed, 
kissing her. Then he rose and walked up and down 
the room in great agitation. ' Come now, Georgie, 
this won't do. Come now, Georgie, be brave, my 
dearest child, and look your fate sternly in the face. 
Apart from the question of your stepmother al- 
together, Georgie, you mustn't be hoping to marry 
Sir Vincent Leicester. He's a cut above you, 
Georgie, that's the fact of the matter, and he knows 
it himself well enough. He has changed his mind ; 
and I knew all along it wouldn't do. I had no 
idea, Georgie, you were so hard hit ; my poor child.' 
Then Georgina sat up with an air of desperate pride, 
forcing her broken heart together again that her 
dear father might take comfort. 

'No one shall know that I suffer, papa. Of 
course, Vincent will see noio that it cannot be.' 

' What do you mean, Georgie, by now ? ' 

' Oh, you foolish papa — haven't you seen ? But 
no — it was always chiefly when we were alone — 
dear Vincent. No, he has not changed to me. 
And we have been so happy together these few 
days ! Xow, of course, it must all be given up.' 
All this was confessed with stammering modesty, 
and Mr. Bryant was greatly moved. He pondered. 

' My child,' said the father at last, ' I will say 



14 MR. BR Y ant's MISTAKE 

this much for Vincent Leicester ; if he has renewed 
his courtship since you have met here, I do not 
believe he is the man to draw back now merely on 
account of your stepmother's connections. If his 
love or his honour, or, as I hope, both, prompt him to 
engage himself to you, Georgie, he will override objec- 
tions of the nature you fear ; only, my dearest child, 
you must not attach too much significance ' 

But Georgina smiled with serene and sparkling 
eyes. ' His love and his honour ! ah yes ! dear papa, 
you know him too ! Thank you for reminding me. I 
am content to trust to dear Vincent's love and honour!' 
and she went away smiling to herself; for verily she 
did believe in her lover's honour ; and she had 
boundless confidence in her own powers of seduction. 

But Mr. Bryant felt himself torn in pieces by so 
many conflicting emotions. He could make no stand 
at all against Georgina's pathos ; and now poor dear 
Emma was pathetic too. He found his wife in tears, in 
her own ugly room where Georgina's improving finger 
had not taken the trouble to intrude. On her knee 
lay the thrush, which she had given to Georgina, 
and which the girl had already starved to death. 

Mr. Bryant was fond of dumb creatures as well as 
of his wife, and he did feel annoyed with Georgina this 
time. He sat down by Emma's side and comforted her. 

' Oh, Ned,' said poor Emma, ' it isn't only the 
bird ! But whenever I think of Georgie I feel I 



REFLECTION 15 

must cry. "Why ever did you send her away when 
she was a little thing, and getting to love me hke 
her mother ? She'll never be my daughter now. 
She only laughed at my having lost Jerry's pretty 
loving ways. She would prevent you loving me if 
she could.' 

* Xo one shall do that, Emma ! But you are too 
hard on Georgie, my love. It is only that she is 
young and a little thoughtless.' 

* But I'd have been so fond of her, Xed ! I had 
all the love I was going to give my own children 
ready to give her. And she don't want it.' 

' My poor Emma ! Yes. I wish you had a 
dear daughter of your own,' he said, soothing her. 

' Oh yes, yes, Xed ! I do wish it. I love to 
think you wish it for me. I had a daughter once ! 
Let me talk about her, Ned,' whispered the lonely 
woman, passionately, ' just for once while there is 
only you and me to hear. My baby that died long 
ago, and I wasn't able to mourn for her at the time, 
so the tears are here still after all these years, 
waiting to flow.' 

' I wish she had Lived, Emma. I wish you had 
had her with you.' And at the moment, remorse 
busy in his heart, he did wish it. 

' Oh Ned, dearest, dearest husband ! It does 
me good to hear you say that — to know you mean 
it and think it.' 



i6 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

Alas for Mr. Bryant ! She went on. ' I am 
feeling it so to-day, Ned, because I have seen that 
dear girl of Ben's again ! Oh, Ned, they were like 
each other ! I could have fancied Mary growing 
up just like that. It feels almost as if she was my 
own sweet little Mary come to life ! ' Mr. Bryant 
started to his feet. It seemed as if cold hands had 
seized him and were clawing at his vitals. A per- 
spiration of horror broke out on his brow. He was 
conscious of evils in swift approach. 

' Good heavens, Emma ! ' he said, all his tender- 
ness vanishing, ' what are you saying ? You seem 
to forget Mary's position. And as to that Nannie — 
you have nothing to do with her. I tell you, she 
is the one member of your brother's family whom I 
cannot endure ; whom I will not have brought into 
my house ! ' Emma was terrified. 



CHAPTEK III 

'What is the matter?' asked Lady Katharine, 
hearing her son laugh in a wild disconcerted sort of 
way, as he sat by himself in the library after the 
clergyman's departure. John muttered something 
about crackling thorns under a pot, keeping his 
back to her ladyship and continuing to rub the 



REFLECTION 17 

antique bronze lamp, which swung about in the 
draught, and made strange shadows among the suits 
of armour and rusty swords and pikes. Lady 
Katharine was offended and went to complain to 
her son. 

' I have some news for you, mother ! ' cried Vin- 
cent. ' Never mind about John. He has only 
been converted, and when I send Alick to the 
asylum I will secure a vacancy for him as well. 
Listen — Bryant has been here.' 

' Well ? ' said the widow, sitting very straight 
in the lounging chair and not looking pleased at 
Vincent, who was sprawling on the sofa before 
her, his countenance still agitated by ungenial 
laughter. She agreed with Mr. Sandford ; the 
manners of the rising generation were very bad. 

'Vincent, do stop laughing,' she said, having 
heard j\Ir. Bryant's communication. ' It is not a 
pleasant circumstance.' 

' Why not ? ' returned the son, with slight defiance 
in his tone ; ' I never was so amused in my life ! ' 

' So it appears. You don't seem to re- 
collect — ' she hesitated and changed her ending. 
' I really wish, dear, you had been less hasty about 
the Bryants.' 

' Why ? ' The note of defiance was becoming 
louder. Lady Katharine was determined to say it 
this time. 

VOL. II 21 



1 8 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

' I should be exceedingly sorry, Vincent, that 
you connected yourself with people ' Some- 
thing in her son's expression checked her again. 

' Now, mother, take care. I propose to judge 
people by what they are ; not by what 'stupid, musty 
old ancestors they may have had. Ancestors ! 
What humbug it is ! Haven't we all had much the 
same number of ancestors ? And I don't know 
what benefit I ever got from the bloodthirsty or 
dissolute or ignorant old gentlemen, who have, the 
greater number of them, left no better record than 
their names on that family tree.' The widow was 
shocked. 

' I had no idea, Vincent, that you had such repub- 
lican ideas. They are most mischievous. Your dear 
father always said so. You cannot mean what you 
say. And when you marry I do sincerely implore 
you to marry a lady of your own rank. I do not 
attach importance to money, or even to exalted 
position; but blood is essential — most essential.' 

Vincent laughed again. He took a penknife 
and drove it into his finger. 

' See, mother, my blood is not so very blue after 
all ! I fancy red blood is the essential ; to flow 
freely and make use of its opportunities, building 
up a man or a woman either, big and strong, and 
fresh coloured and good tempered. Thank you for 
my red blood, mother. Look at it ! Isn't it a fine 



REFLECTION 19 

colour ? But, do you know, if you pricked the finger 
of some buxom milkmaid with never a grandfather, 
and let the drops mingle with mine you wouldn't 
know one from the other ! ' Lady Katharine pushed 
his hand away. 

' DorLt, Vincent. That is a disgusting way of 
speaking, and of lacerating yourself. But I hope, 
dear,' she added, tenderly, taking his hand again 
and staunching the wound with her handkerchief, 
' if you are determined on making this marriage, 
that our dear Miss Bryant's family (apart from her 
stepmother) will prove a great deal better than 
we fear.' 

' Georgina ? ' laughed Vincent, ' her blood is red 
enough in all conscience ! How richly it mantles 
up in her cheek when she is pleased, or when she 
is put out. Such a beauty as that would want a 
glass case over her. Alick says all the " quality " 
live under glass cases and feel heaven's own breath 
strange and nasty. But Georgina ! No, mother, it 
wouldn't answer. Give me the fresh breeze of the 
mountain side and the voice of nature. Nature has 
done a great deal for Georgina, but she dreads it. 
If the sun shines she wears a veil ; even kissing she 
would endure in the strictest moderation. Kisses 
have been said to raise blisters.' 

' I cannot follow you, Vincent. And I think 
your expressions are coarse.' 



20 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

' Possibly. I tell you I have red blood in my 
veins. I like the sun/ cried Nannie's lover ; ' I 
like simplicity and confidence in one's warmest and 
purest instincts. There are kisses I like, mother,' he 
said, bending over the horrified widow. ' Ye gods ! for 
them I would barter the family tree and every blue 
drop in my body ; the applause of men and life in 
drawing-rooms under glass cases from henceforth 
until all the seas run dry. They are the only thing 
worth living for ! They are life itself, hope, happi- 
ness, heaven ! ' said Vincent, the more vehemently 
that his resolution had been very rudely shaken. 

' I think, Vincent, you have gone out of your 
mind,' said Lady Katharine, coldly. But, poor boy, 
she pitied him heartily ! What could be more un- 
fortunate than to be deeply and irrevocably enamoured 
of a beautiful and an excellent and a suitable young 
lady, and then to discover that her stepmother was a 
farmer's daughter ? Lady Katharine foresaw that she 
would have to overlook this one defect in the charm- 
ing Miss Bryant. Her son's precious heart must not 
be broken. And Georgina was so nice. The widow 
slept badly, thinking of Fortune's unkindness. 

But Vincent had slept badly for many a night. 
Love had kept him restless, — love for the unattainable 
Nannie ; and then the (still vague) idea of marrying 
her and passing the rest of his life in a perpetually 
apologetic or a perpetually truculent attitude. To- 



REFLECTION 21 

night Mr. Bryant had murdered his sleep effectually; 
the man's love story had vulgarised his own, and 
the offence was unpardonable. 

Yesterday Vincent's position had been this : 
the game he was playing was worth its candle ; 
once in a thousand years some lowly maiden arises 
as rare, as delicate, as bewitching as Nannie ; and 
once in a thousand years a lover is found bold 
enough to raise her to the purple that should have 
l:)een hers by birth ; in warm moments he was even 
pleased by the singularity, the risk, the romance of 
the part he meant to act ; always, he loved her too 
much to regret that he had declared his passion; 
and, oh heavens ! had found it returned. Sweet, 
lovely, enchanting Nannie ! she should be his ; 
though to get her he must scandalise all his friends 
and infuriate all his relations ; what matter when 
he had found an Earthly Paradise ? So much for 
yesterday. 

To-night a parson had suddenly burst into 
his Earthly Paradise ; was noisily claiming joint 
ownership and vociferously pointing out that 
its situation was not among the lofty mountains 
of the ideal and the beautiful, but in the low- 
lying, malarious, and hateful swamps of vulgar 
reality. A horrid travesty of Vincent's charming 
drama was being played for his edification. There 
had been another beauty in Nannie's own family ; 



22 MR. BR YANT S MISTAKE 

a beauty who had now grown stout and flurried, 
and confessedly 'a little underbred, you know.' And 
another gentleman, — in Everwell at this moment, — 
had married beneath him ; and, oh horrors ! had lived 
to wish he hadn't done it ! Vincent's plot had lost 
the charm of originality. 

'I will marry my little darling/ said the lover 
to himself, ' for I cannot live without her ; and 
thank Heaven I have pledged myself to her. Yes, 
I will marry Nannie, and live on in my Earthly 
Paradise. Only I will not confess my marriage. 
What good could it possibly do to either of us ? ' 

But there seemed no sort of finality about this 
resolution ; and sleep was no nearer his eyelids 
than before. There were, however, two stable poles 
to his revolving emotions. One was indignation 
against the parson ; the other a consuming desire to 
see dear Nannie again, though he was certainly 
reluctant in that matter of the formal proposal, 
and though he had a carking fear that after the 
manner of prudent young women in moral anecdotes 
she would at their next meeting simply give him 
back his ring, and refuse to have further dealings 
with him of any sort, thus bringing the sweet 
adventure to a premature conclusion. Could Nannie 
be so unkind ? Vincent's hair stood on end at the 
thought; and he could not sleep for the dread 
of it. 



REFLECTION 23 

But morning came at last, and with it came 
Alick. Vincent, glad of distraction to his des- 
pondent thoughts, surveyed the prophet's increased 
dignity of appearance with a certain half-approving 
curiosity. 

* Sit down, Alick,' he said. ' These conferences 
are weighty afiairs. The two kings at Sparta must 
often have needed such. What has happened at 
Everwell which needs my interference ? ' Sir Vin- 
cent spoke in the slightly amused tone which the 
preacher disliked. 

* Did Mr. Bryant tell you, sir, as he's my uncle ? ' 
asked the inexorable Alick, without preamble. 

' Yes,' drily. 

' Is he the man you took him for, sir V 

* What do you mean V stiffly. 

* Is he a fit man to be over the people in the 
Lord?' asked the prophet, and Vincent would 
doubtless have laughed but for the man's majestic 
mien. 

* I did not expect class prejudice of this sort 
from you, Alick.' 

' You mistake me, su\ Mr. Bryant lied about it.' 
' That is an improper expression for you to use.' 
' Sir, you heard him yourself say he had never 

seen mother afore.' 

' Well, he was mistaken. It is no concern of 

mine, and I decline to discuss it.' 



24 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

' It is your concern, sir, for you have set this 
man over us in the Lord. He came to mother that 
very evening and bribed her to hold her tongue.' 

Vincent rose angrily, ' I have refused to discuss 
this with you. If you have no business to bring 
me but gossip of this sort, you may go away.' 

But he had had another turn against his friend 
Mr. Bryant ; and to shake off his irritation became 
yet more difficult. He went to Lady Katharine for 
consolation. 

' Tell me, mother,' he said, abruptly, as they 
drove an hour or two later to Tanswick, ' would you 
have thought very badly of Bryant if he had hushed 
up that information he gave us yesterday V 

' Oh,' said the widow, comfortably, ' of course 
when a gentleman finds his position misunderstood, 
his very first impulse is to explain.' 

' Exactly,' muttered the son ; and feared that his 
own position would be much misunderstood when he 
was secretly married to Nannie. 

' Is not that precisely what our dear Mr. Bryant 
has done ?' 

' Yes, I believe so,' said Vincent, drily, and would 
have left the matter there ; but Lady Katharine 
improved the occasion, little thinking of the second 
meaning all her words bore for her son. 

' I can imagine no greater calamity in a family 
than a man's marrying beneath him.' 



REFLECTION 25 

' It depends on the woman. Mrs. Bryant was 
not a good selection.' 

' On the contrary, she seems an nnpresiiming, 
diffident person. Just think of the younger women 
of the Eandle family ! I have a positive dread of 
young women of that class. I don't wonder, dear, 
you are vexed about Mr. Bryant. One is afraid 
there must be a great coarseness in a man's nature 
when he can fall in love with a woman in that sort 
of inferior position.' 

' Men do it every day.' 

' I cannot believe,' said the unsuspecting lady, 
earnestly, ' that any young man of principle would 
yield to such ill -regulated desires for a moment. 
He must have been very careless — giddy, I fear — to 
get into an entanglement of the sort ; and very 
weak not to have extricated himself. Don't you 
agree with me, Vincent?' 

' No, I don't. Xot if the gu^l in question was 
good and nice — as well as beautiful,' answered the 
son, awkwardly ; afraid of betraying too much, and 
hating Mrs. Bryant, the caricature of Nannie, whose 
cause he was apparently pleading. 

' My dear boy ! That is sucli an uninstructed, 
childish view. No w^oman in a humble position, who 
is good and nice, unless she is positively silly, will 
form an attachment to any one out of her station, or 
permit on his part the smallest attention or intimacy.' 



26 MR. Bryant's MISTAKE 

' There are exceptional cases/ urged Vincent. 

Lady Katharine thought she had perhaps said too 
much against Georgina's father ; and began now to 
apologise for him, and to praise, in fact to over- 
praise, his charming daughter. Vincent made a few 
sarcastic replies ; then suddenly resolved to end at 
least this misunderstanding. ■ Mother,' he said, 
gravely, checking the ponies and looking round so as 
to meet her anxious gaze, 'please remember that 
there never was any engagement between Georgina 
and me ; I am sorry I ever gave you the impression 
that I wished to marry her.' 

' Vincent !' Lady Katharine was taken completely 
by surprise, and so much shocked that she simply 
refused to accept what he was saying. Her peace- 
ful history had centred round one solitary and per- 
fectly satisfactory love ; and so to her a wandering 
affection seemed symptomatic of almost depravity. 
It was incredible of Vincent, who was beginning to 
inspire her with respect. Moreover, by this time 
Lady Katharine was far more in love with Georgina 
than ever Vincent had been, and her inconsistent 
mind was quite equal to the task of disliking 
alliance with a family of such mry queer connec- 
tions, and at the same time defending her son for 
insisting upon the marriage. But now here was 
Vincent himself talking of drawing back ! She had 
not expected it ; it argued selfishness and the most 



REFLECTION 27 

blameworthy worldliness. She could not believe it. 
She preferred to think he was not serious. Georgina 
and he had no doubt had some little misunderstand- 
ing, which could be quickly set right by a little 
friendly help from their elders. 

There are many admirable women whose ideas 
are all in a fog like Lady Katharine's. Fortunately, 
their actions are generally directed by some clearer 
part of their composition. They consider themselves 
to have authority for their condition from at least 
one great moral preceptor. Does he not say, that if 
truths of apparently contrary character are candidly 
and rightly received, they will fit themselves to- 
gether in the mind without any trouble ? Such an 
accommodating mind was the charitable one of Lady 
Katharine Leicester. 



CHAPTEE V^ 

' For always ? Oh, it seems too wonderful ! You 
didn't think to say it to me till that night, sir, did 
you ? Are you sure ? For always ?' 

' Nannie, I would not deceive you for all the 
world. A fortnight ago it did not seem possible to 
me ; I do not now see the way very clearly. But, 
Nannie, I do wish it. I love you above everything. I 
wish to have you for always ; for my dear, dear wife.' 



28 MR. Bryant's mistake 

' Oh, I can't, I can't !' cried Nannie, her woman's 
instinct divining the hesitation which he was too 
honest to conceal from her. And she burst into 
tears. How could Love see her weep unmoved ? 
He knelt, drawing her to his heart. 

' Darling ! dearest 1 tell me everything. What 
is the matter ? Don't be afraid to tell me.' 

' If I were a lady,' moaned Nannie, ' I would — 
oh, I would this minute. You know it ! But we 
are too different. It frightens me. It couldn't be 
right. Oh, think if I made you unhappy! if we 
came to wish we hadn't done it ! ' 

' Nannie 1 Nannie ! ' said Vincent, but with no 
arguments quite ready to expose the fallacy of her 
reasoning. ' What can I say, sweet Nannie, but that 
I love you — love you with all my heart, Nannie ? 
And if you love me ' 

Footsteps were heard approaching, and remember- 
ing the necessities of the position, Vincent was 
obliged, very reluctantly, to relinquish her from his 
embrace ; they both rose, tremulous and uncertain of 
themselves and afraid to speak to each other till 
the intruder had passed. Indeed they looked guilty 
enough as Mrs. Bryant walked slowly by, not 
without a glance of inquiry and an attempted 
greeting, to which neither of them responded. 

' Do you think, sir, I ought to tell my father ? ' 
were Nannie's first words when they were alone again. 



REFLECTION 29 

' Tell him if you like, Xannie. Tell any one you 
like/ said Vincent. 

'Oh no ! Xo one unless I must. It would 
seem like boasting ! ' Then she laid her hand on 
her lover's arm and raised her eyes to his. ' Good- 
bye. You see it must be so. Shall I give you 
your ring ? ' But he kept silence, gazing at her 
and learning every line of the sweet face. And 
then he smiled, for she was very fair ; and her 
innocent eyes were meeting his with unconcealed 
tenderness. 

' Nannie,' said Vincent, abruptly, ' let us imit! 
There was again a short silence. 

' Wait ? ' she repeated, doubtfully, ' I don't see 
that waiting could make any difference.' 

* Yes. One never knows what changes may 
come. Something might turn up to make our way 
plain ; I cannot give you up altogether, sweet 
Xannie, when I know you love me. Xannie, I 
would wait a hundred years for you. "Will you not 
wait a little while for me ? Come now — ' he tried 
to speak lightly, ' you won't rush off desperately 
and marry Alick ? ' 

' Oh no ! ' said Nannie, flushing and offended. 

' That is something. Nannie, we could have a 
talk out here sometimes, couldn't we ? We should 
get to know each other and to see if we could 
venture our whole lives togjether. I should know 



30 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

that you were at heart my little sweetheart all the 
time, and we should be happy living upon hope. 
Will you consent to wait, Nannie ? ' 

' Would all that really be right ? ' said Nannie, 
her hand stealing into his. 

' Yes, quite right ! ' said Vincent. ' Dearest, 
dearest, I love you ! ' 

Nannie had no reservations in her mind, and 
her perfect confidence in him appealed to her lover 
strongly. There was infinite reverence in the grave 
kiss he pressed now upon her willing lips. 

' You have my ring, Nannie ? You remember 
what I told you it meant ? ' said Vincent. ' Sacred, 
deserved, and endless trust. You will remember 
that, my Nannie ? ' 

' To be at heart your little sweetheart,' she 
murmured, repeating his words, and leaning her fore- 
head against his arm with a little moan of great 
happiness. 

'To be my wife if ever we see our way to it. 
Say yes, my darling,' he urged, anxious to remove 
ambiguity, which if not now, might in a little while 
startle her confiding innocence. 

' If things get very different,' said Nannie ; then 
moved by his earnestness she whispered gravely, 
'Yes.' 

' Thank you, my treasure — my lovely treasure ! ' 
said Vincent, his cheek flushing. 



REFLECTION 31 

And somehow they stood a long tune together 
there, in the dying sunlight, not saying much, but 
smiling at each other, and already feeling the ex- 
hilarating influence of the sparkling wine of hope. 

But the question was, had they climbed over a 
certain stile, to a path which leads indeed along by 
the wayside, but through a meadow ; and that a 
meadow easy to the feet, and called in ancient times 
By-path Meadow ? 

Mrs. Bryant, at any rate, had no doubt that they 
had wandered in this manner. 



CHAPTEK V 

Nannie, left alone, was sighing distractedly at having 
had to part from her dear lover, when she felt a 
hand laid on her shoulder, and she started to her 
feet, to find her aunt by her side. The girl drew away 
coldly from the proffered embrace, for her interest 
in the affectionate woman had by no means been 
stirred yet. Mrs. Bryant addressed her pleadingly. 

'You'd rather I didn't tell your father or Patty 
what I saw, dear, wouldn't you ? You know, my 
dear,' urged Emma, having gained no response, ' I 
saw Sir Vincent Leicester talking to you.' 

' Well,' burst forth Nannie at last, ' we weren't 



32 MR. Bryant's mistake 

doing anything we oughtn't. You may tell father if 
you wish. But if you talk to him in that sort of way 
you'll get me into trouble. Father is very — I mean 
he wouldn't hearken to what I had to say, like he 
would to Patty or Caroline.' 

' Will you let me talk to you a bit, as if I was 
your own mother, Nannie, instead of your aunt ? ' 

* If you wish,' said I^annie, coldly. Mrs. Bryant 
took her hand. 

'My dear, I want to tell you we know Sir 
Vincent very well indeed, because we believe he is 
going to marry Georgina, Mr. Bryant's beautiful 
daughter.' Nannie snatched her hand angrily away. 

' You are making a mistake, aunt. I happen to 
know Sir Vincent is not promised to any one ! ' she 
said, impetuously. 

' My dear, my dear ! Was Sir Vincent talking 
that way to you ? Was he saying you were a 
pretty girl and he loved you ? ' Nannie's heart 
thumped and her colour came and went ; the 
mildest woman will resist when there is an attempt 
to rob her of her lover. 

'Aunt, there is only one person I thought I 
ought to tell, unless father. I thought maybe I 
ought to tell Alick, who has a sort of right, and 
who is better to me than all my own brothers and 
sisters. I don't see no reason at all why I should 
tell you^ 



REFLECTION 33 

* My love, don't go away. Perhaps it will help 

you, Nannie, if I tell you something about 

only you must never speak of it to any one. Will 
you promise me that ? I've had a deal of trouble, 
Nannie,' she went on, ' though you see me now 
with such a good husband and in such a nice home. 
One may be very sad at heart though one is rich 
and comfortable. I want to tell you a sad story, 
dear, because it may be a warning to you against 
gentlemen and their fine promises.' Poor Emma 
could not help beating about the bush nervously. 

' I am sorry if you aren't happy with ]\Ir. Bryant,' 
said Nannie, trying to get away. 

' Oh, my dear child, that is not what I mean. 
Mr. Bryant isn't a gentleman ! And you mustn't 
fancy the story has to do with me,' said Emma, 
fussily ; ' it was about just a great friend of mine ! ' 

' Isn't Mr. Bryant a gentleman ? ' exclaimed 
Nannie, thinking that gentlefolks and common 
people seemed much more mixed up than she had 
supposed. 

' Oh, it has nothing at all to do with Mr. Bryant, 
Nannie I You must on no account speak of it to 
him. My dear, you know about the little girl that 
was nursed with you, and was to have been your 
sister like, if she hadn't died ? Haven't they 
never told you of her ? ' cried Mrs. Bryant, 
* and she like your own twin sister ? They 

VOL. II 22 



34 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

must have talked to you of her. They can't 
have let her be quite forgotten and she so 
innocent ! ' 

' Mary Smith, wasn't it ? ' said Nannie, not at 
all interested. 

' The story was never to be told, Nannie,' said 
Mrs. Bryant, sinking her voice. ' Oh, I was so fond 
of that child ! She was to have been called Lilian 
or Violet, but your mother said plain Mary was 
best, and I got fond of the name afterwards as it 
was hers.' 

'Why was the baby not to be spoken of, 
aunt ? ' 

' Because I thought you'd have guessed, 

my dear. The poor mother had no real husband, 
Nannie.' 

' Oh, I see.' Nannie understood now ; not that 
Mrs. Bryant was telling her own history ; that did 
not occur to her : the clergyman's wife was quite 
too prosperous ; but she was indignant at the 
implied warning to herself ' I can't understand 
your dreaming there is anything like that,' she 
cried, angrily ; ' I should despise myself. He would 
despise me. I should just think he would indeed ! 
He would think me a bad girl even to imagine such 
a thing ! ' and Nannie's lip trembled and her blue 
eyes flashed. 

' Oh, my dear child, you don't know how easy 



REFLECTION 35 

it is to a poor girl if she loves her sweetheart. I 
have seen so many nice girls go wrong, ISTannie, and 
so easily. They get to think it almost the right 
thing to do. My dear, my dear, you must give it 
all up before you come to caring for him like that, 
for if you once got really to love him, Nannie, a 
young gentleman like Sir Vincent Leicester would 
twist you round his little finger.' Xannie rose very 
angry. 

' You must be a very wicked woman yourself, 
aunt, to think such things of me. I know right from 
wrong and I can take care of myself, thank you. 
And I won't hear any more of that bad Mrs. Smith, 
and have wicked thoughts put into my head, and 
poison into what is the best thing I have ever had 
in my whole life ! ' 

' My dear ! ' cried Mrs. Bryant, taking the girl's 
hand again and holding it tight in her tremulous 
grasp, ' I never said you had wicked thoughts. 
Xo more hadn't Mary's mother. She was not led 
astray in the way you think. It hurts me to 
have you call her a wicked woman, Nannie. She 
was just innocent and young like you.' ISTannie 
was touched. 

* Aunt Emma, I see you mean to be kind, but 
you are quite mistaking me, and you are mistaking 
liim. He would never ask that. He wanted me to 
many him. And I said, No. I felt I ought to 



36 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

say, No. But he knows I love him, and I shall 
never, never, never love any one else. There ! You 
know all now.' 

' ISTannie, I must tell you more about that woman, 
though it hurts me to speak of the wickedness of 
any one I loved so much. She thought like you, 
dear, that a talk of marrying made it all right. 
She believed all he said, and she thought he was 
noble because he was ready to marry a poor girl, 
and he a gentleman with grand relations and money, 
and the pleasant way of speaking that gentlemen 
have, as you know, my dear. And it was kept a 
secret and no one knew. It all seemed to come 
about natural-like, and he said it was only for a 
time. And he got her away from her home and 
met her in a place far away, and they were married 
as she thought, like every one else ; only no one 
knew. And that poor girl was as happy as the 

Queen for a while, Nannie ' her voice failed 

her. 

' Please, aunt, forgive me for saying she was a 
bad woman,' said Nannie, impulsively, kneeling 
down to comfort poor Mrs. Bryant. ' I didn't know 
you cared for her so, and I didn't understand she 
was married to him. Why didn't you say that 
first ? ' 

' Thank you, my love. You think it makes such 
a difterence, Nannie ? But the marrying didn't 



REFLECTION 37 

make it right for that woman, Nannie. My dear, 
he had told her Hes. Gentlemen do that to poor 
girls. Oh, my dear child, take warning and don't 
be believing what that young man says ! That 
poor girl loved Frederick, Nannie, and thought she 
knew all about him, and that he was true. But 
in a very little while he got tired of her, and she 
saw him seldomer and seldomer. And then she 
found he was making love to another — oh, it was 
such a bitter time, Nannie ! And at last he went 
away — in a ship — leaving her for ever, as it turned 
out (and as I believe he had meant) ; for there was 
a wreck, and he was drowned. And then, Nannie, 
she found it all out, — that she had been simple and 
trusting, and deceived. And she never knew so 
much as his real name — never. And the man who 
had married them wasn't a clergyman at all. And 
there had been no real ceremony, nor writing names 
in registers, nor anything like it should be. And 
she was no more his wife than you are, Nannie. 
And her dear baby had no father ; and people 
thought it a disgrace.' And the unhappy woman 
buried her face in her hands and wept. 

The girl had sunk back on her heels before 
Mrs. Bryant and was watching her with wondering, 
compassionate eyes. ' Poor thing ! ' said Nannie, 
gently ; ' how she must have suffered. Oh, how 
wrong of me to speak as I did of her ! ' 



38 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

' Thank you, my dear — my dear/ sobbed Mrs. 
Bryant ; and there was a long pause. ' Nannie, 
my love,' said the poor thing after a while, draw- 
ing into her arms the fair girl who seemed dear 
almost as Mary Smith herself, 'you'll not tell 
Mr. Bryant nor any one I told you of this. 
Hardly any one ever knew it, and they made me 
promise never to tell. But you'll take warning, 
dear, and give up that bad young man and never 
trust him again.' Nannie sprang to her feet and 
with her fingers felt the ring he had given her 
hidden away from sight. Was her faith in him to 
be tried thus soon ? 

' No, aunt,' said Nannie, clasping her hands and 
with her eyes fixed on the heavens, her sweet lips 
smiling. ' I shall always love him. He is not like 
that wicked man. I love him, and I honour him, 
and I trust him. I know he is true, and I will 
always be true to him.' 



CHAPTEE VI 

Nannie had intended to tell Alick about Sir Vin- 
cent ; she had thought also of telling her father 
or Patty. But that talk with her aunt changed 
her resolve. It opened her eyes to see in what 



REFLECTION 39 

light her love story would be regarded ; and be- 
lieving as she did that no light could be more false, 
it seemed wrong to expose its innocence to it. 
After all there was next to nothing to tell. What 
could it matter to any one that she had chosen 
to love a bright particular star ? And would she not 
be profoundly disloyal to make his proposals public 
when she was not able to accept them, and they 
seemed so easily misunderstood ? Not able to 
accept them ? Nannie began to waver. It was 
horrible to her that doubts of his good faith had 
been suggested. She wanted to do something at 
once to show her entire faith in him. Oh, what 
would he think of her — would he ever forgive her — 
if he fancied her hesitation arose from any doubt of 
his truth ? 

' What was Aunt Emma talking to you about, 
Nan ? ' Patty asked that evening, as the sisters sat 
busy at their needlework ; ' she seems to me a silly 
sort of woman. I can't see what she wants to go 
crying and slobbering over you for.' 

' I don't care to tell you,' said Nannie, with her 
little defiant air. 

' I've a notion, girls,' said Patty after a pause, 
' that Aunt Emma's a queer one. I've been adding 
two and two together for years, and that's how the 
sum comes out.' 

'I don't believe it!' cried Nannie; 'you are 



40 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

always fancying things against folk, Patty, and 
adding twos and twos together, as never were 
meant to be added. Even if things look strange 
against people,' she cried, remembering her sister's 
warnings about Sir Vincent and her own denials, 
which were an impediment now in the way of the 
free confession, which had perhaps been her wisdom, 
* you shouldn't always think they must be wicked. 
I hate that way. I am sure everybody in the 
world is a great deal better than they seem ! You 
make me frightened ever to tell you anything of 
anybody, for you are sure to find evil in it. How 
unhappy you must be ! ' 

' Nannie, you make my head ache with your 
vulgar noise,' said the languid Caroline. Patty 
changed the subject. ' Child,' said she, composedly, 
' father has been talking of Alick again, and wanting 
to settle your wedding-day ; ' and she smiled pleas- 
antly, holding up the linen she was hemming ; 
' you'll do with a few of these tablecloths, I fancy ; 
won't you ? ' The girl pushed back her chair angrily 
with the words on her tongue — 

' I am not going to marry Alick nor no one ; ' 
but Caroline got the start of her, and took the 
wind out of her sails. 

' I don't see why Nannie should be married first,' 
she grumbled ; ' when I had an offer at seventeen 
I said I'd wait a bit. / wasn't so pleased at the 



REFLECTION 41 

idea of a man fiddling with me. And lu wasn't 
deformed like Alick. You have a bad taste, 
Xannie.' 

Alas ! how unfortunate is the way we all go 
about, unintentionally taking the wind out of each 
other's sails ! Xannie's words were not uttered, for 
it infuriated her to hear Alick spoken of so. 

' He's the best man in Everwell/ she cried, ' and 
no one that he wanted to marry would think twice 
if he was deformed or not !' So she kept her secret ; 
and people continued to fancy her betrothed to her 
cousin, Alick Eandle the prophet. 

Meanwhile, Mrs. Bryant, had she been a wise 
woman, would probably have confided Xannie's 
romance at once to some responsible person. But 
she was afraid to inform her husband, and her 
brother being on some points righteous over-much, 
she was afraid to tell hun. Patty and Caroline 
were only girls themselves, and Mrs. Bryant was 
a little afraid of them too. Yet the dear child 
must not be left to take care of herself. ' She is 
not to be trusted ; no woman is ! ' sighed Emma, 
and thought it very hard that poor women should be 
blamed for what was only natural to them. 

Vincent was at the vicarage next day and horri- 
fied the poor lady. She had seen him yesterday 
standing in the evening sunlight, his eyes bent on 
the beauty of the village girl, whose heart he was 



42 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

stealing with unmeant vows. Yet here he was 
flirting with Georgina ; for Emma did not under- 
stand his air of cousinly intimacy, and she could not 
imagine Georgie's license of manner exhibited to 
any one but an accepted lover. Oh, he must be a 
dreadful young man — deceiving Georgina even as he 
was deceiving poor, helpless, little Nannie ! Mrs. 
Bryant thought with alarm that she would not be 
doing her duty to her stepchild if she did not put 
her on her guard. Even to save Nannie, it would 
not be right to let Georgina be trapped into a 
loveless marriage with an unprincipled man. She 
resolved to expostulate even with Sir Vincent him- 
self, whom personally she did not dislike so much 
as her opinion of him seemed to justify. But day 
after day passed and the timid woman did nothing, 
though her cowardly inaction made her miserable. 
She felt ill with distress and anxiety ; and Georgina 
perceived that she grew uglier and stupider daily. 

Now the clergyman's spirits had by this time 
greatly revived ; for he thought the Leicesters had 
behaved to him most handsomely under his un- 
pleasant circumstances. He was quite resolved not 
to bustle away from his cure. For there was no 
doubt he had made an excellent impression in the 

diocese. He had been to X and had dined 

with the Bishop. He had preached in Uggle Grinby, 
and invitations were beginning to pour in. The 



REFLECTION 43 

reputation which had preceded him in his journey 
north had expanded in the bracing air of the new 
county. It was said that Everwell was a dull 
parish for such an important man, and that he had 
come thither only temporarily, for rest and health, 
and because of his connection with the Leicesters. 
Mr. Bryant realised that if he kept quiet he need 
not leave his vicarage till he was appointed to a 
better one. Meanwhile his wife fell into the back- 
ground, and Georgina and he went about together. 

Georgina went to a ball at the Sandfords, and 
Mr. Bryant appeared for a short tune just to fetch 
her away. He found his daughter the belle of the 
evening, with a circle of the best young men round 
her. Vincent was not present, and Lord George 
Frere was making the most of his opportunity. 
Nay, Georgina was already patronised by the 
Duchess. For the young lady was superbly hand- 
some, agreeable, and of excellent manners, and 
going, it was said, to become Lady Leicester ; so her 
Grace thought it well to begin by civility. The 
Leicesters were the oldest family in the north, and 
Sir Vincent was Lord Henslow's grandson. Georgina 
was clearly a person to be cultivated. Who was 
she ? Mr. Bryant's daughter. Who was Mr. 
Bryant? A very rising and distinguished ecclesiastic; 
supposed to belong to the Xorfolk Bryants, and safe, 
people said, for a deanery. But had Georgina 



44 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

acquired her bearing in a country parsonage ? Oh 
dear no ! she had been brought up by her aunt, 
Lady Cookham. The new Lady Cookham ? Oh, 
then she was all right. And she was really en- 
gaged to Sir Vincent Leicester ? Oh yes — engaged 
for some time; but the marriage had been post- 
poned on account of his mourning. At least that 
was the report, and Miss Bryant had never denied it. 
The clergyman was not an hour at the ball, but 
this gossip reached his ears ; and he saw the Duchess 
speak to Georgina. No, he would not leave Ever- 
well yet. 

But it was on the day after the ball that Mrs. 
Bryant, thinking the girl in her fatigue gentler 
than usual, took upon herself to warn Georgina. 
The reader perceives that the occasion was in no 
wise opportune. 

' Georgie,' she began, with the diminutive always 
irritating to the beauty from her stepmother's 
lips, ' Georgie, dear, you would never think of 
caring for a man who wasn't good, would you ? ' 
They had a preliminary skirmish about the ex- 
pression ' care for ' ; which Mrs. Bryant altered to 
' marry,' and the girl then asked with an air of 
offence whether the allusion was to Sir Vincent ; 
and declared it never her habit either to refuse or 
to accept a man before he proposed, so that Mrs. 
Bryant's conclusions were proved premature and 



REFLECTION 45 

immodest. Warning Georgina was not easy ; still 
with desperate courage Emma persevered. ' My 
dear, I'm very much afraid that young man hasn't 
a clean heart to offer you.' Georgina yawned and 
said — 

' Like the rest of them, he regards marriage as 
whitewash.' 

' Georgie, dear,' urged Mrs. Bryant, ' I happen to 
know he's carrying on at this very time with another 
girl ; a poor girl ; one you never heard of,' said 
Mrs. Bryant, fussily, anxious to prevent any sus- 
picion from lighting on Nannie. Georgina rose in 
high dudgeon. She was half a head taller than 
Mrs. Bryant, and looked to the poor woman com- 
manding enough for a goddess. 

' Well, you arc a vulgar person ! ' she said. ' The 
idea of prying into Sir Vincent's private affairs in 
this manner and reporting them to me 1 I never was 
so disgusted in my life. I am not a child. I know 
what men are well enough ; and I know what you 
don't seem to know, Mrs. Bryant, which are proper 
subjects for conversation and which are not.' 

Of course poor Emma apologised and retired in 
tears. Her life was one long failure, and she had 
failed again. 

Georgina, however, took the hint about the 
recusant lover. It had not seriously occurred to 
her that his coldness was caused by a rival. Who 



46 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

was there at Everwell who could possibly be a rival 
to her ? Gerty Sandforcl ? or the hunting young 
lady from Faverton who had been at the Heights on 
a visit ? 

' It is just that creature with the red hair ! ' said 
Georgina now ; for her vision was keen, and she had 
never forgotten a look of interest which had kindled 
in Vincent's eyes when on the very day of her own 
arrival, Nannie had come into his field of vision. 
She resolved to find out about it. 



CHAPTEE VII 

Mrs. Bryant, having failed with Georgina and done 
nothing with Sir Vincent, turned to Alick as a last 
resource. Nannie had said he was to know the 
whole thing, so there could be no harm in talking 
it over with him; and Mrs. Bryant looked upon 
Alick as the desirable suitor for her niece, just as 
every one had looked upon Ned Bryant as the 
desirable suitor for herself in her younger days. As 
she walked slowly under the August sun to Alick's 
workshop she considered how much better it would 
have been if she had taken good advice and 
married Ned when she had been seventeen. He 
would not then have had that first disagreeable 



REFLECTION 47 

wife of obscure history and high lineage ; he might 
not have become such a fine gentleman himself; 
and she would not have had her own past to look 
back upon. Georgina would have been her own 
daughter, rather dowdy ; and a younger daughter 
Emma imagined also as born to herself and her 
husband, whose name was Mary, and who would 
now be seventeen, with the face and form of ISTannie 
Eandle. Silly fancies of course ; but illusion was 
ever a source of enjoyment to this poor silly Emma, 
now middle-aged and uninteresting. She found her 
nephew alone, poring over his Bible, with a plate of 
cold and neglected vegetable food by his side, — a 
thing called mush, and made, I strongly suspect, of 
canary seed. Alick was going to preach immedi- 
ately after the dinner hour ; under which circum- 
stances, especially as mush is not very seductive, 
he was apt to forget to feed himself. 

Mrs. Bryant, who had small acquaintance with 
her nephew, did not find it easy to open her 
business, and Alick did not help her to it. He 
wanted to study his preachment and the woman 
bored him. He didn't want to talk of Nannie. 
The question of how he was to gain the girl had 
become a religious one with Alick ; but God's lead- 
ing in the matter was not to be learnt from the 
wife of the man who had brought the accursed thing 
to Everwell. At last, however, Mrs. Bryant said — 



48 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

' You are very fond of her, aren't you, Alick ? 
You would be patient if you thought she was a 
little vain and had had ideas put into her head by a 
wicked person ? I don't mean any harm of her, 
dear child ' 

' Who is the wicked person ? ' interrupted 
Alick, with abrupt interest. Mrs. Bryant was 
startled, and said she had thought he already 
knew. 

' You mustn't think harm of licr, Alick,' pleaded 
Emma, earnestly ; ' she's just as innocent as possible, 
and indeed has acted jilst as is right. He has 
asked her to marry him and she has said No, like 
the good girl she is, and if there is an end of it, 
there is no harm done to any one.' 

Alick had risen abruptly and turned his back 
on Mrs. Bryant, so that she did not see the passion 
that suddenly darkened and distorted his features. 
She continued in her pleading, tremulous tones : ' I 
have told you, Alick, because I know you are the 
one to save her. If something isn't done he may 
talk her over, for I found them together one 
evening in the glen, and it wasn't the first time I'm 
afraid, and it mayn't be the last, and I am so 
afraid he may beguile her with promises and steal 
her from you! 

Alick had guessed instantaneously who was the 
'he' of Mrs. Bryant's confused utterances. He 



REFLECTION 49 

began to reply, slowly at first in a choked voice, but 
quickly crescendo and acceleranclo : 

' Then I'll speak to ISTannie about it at once. 
And I'll speak to Mm; and if my girl is being 
deceived by lying luorcls ctnd led to destruction hy the 
temj^tiwj of any man, IF HE IS the king himself, 

I'LL STICK MY KNIFE IN HIM AND BE D D FOR IT.' 

And Alick turned round, suddenly facing Mrs. 
Bryant, who was scared by the fury she had roused ; 
but where she stood in the sunny window, he saw a 
great darkness with lightning streaks flashing over 
it ; and in the middle of it, clear enough. Sir 
Vincent Leicester himself with the air of half- 
amused disdain, which he had worn long ago in the 
dreams of Alick's feverish night. Alick snatched 
the knife from his plate and sprang forward upon 
the traitor. ' Fiend ! I will send you to your place 
in hell ! ' he shouted. Mrs. Bryant screamed. 

But Alick had terrified himself quite as much 
as he had terrified her. The vision dissolved at 
once, and before he had reached his foe he saw the 
mere cowering woman, and dropped the knife at her 
feet. He had a moment of utter bewilderment, 
in which he had no idea of w^hat he was doing, 
or where he was. Then his full consciousness 
returned ; he remembered every word she had 
said, and he knew that rage had overwhelmed his 
reason. ' Go away, woman,' said Alick, in a low 

VOL. II 23 



50 MR. BR YANtS MISTAKE 

voice of shuddering horror ; ' you are a fiend. You 
tempt me.' 

Poor Mrs. Bryant fled. 

The people assembled in the schoolhouse, which 
Alick used regularly now ; but they had to wait for 
their sermon. When the preacher came he was 
pale and battle-stained, for a terrible anguish had 
he endured in the silence and the solitude after the 
woman had left him. He understood quite well 
what had happened to him in that short moment 
of blind and reasonless fury ! He had read his 
Bible ; he took every word of it literally ; and so 
he knew that for a short time, — thank God, only 
for one short moment, — he had been possessed hy a 
devil. 

' Lord, Lord, save me ! ' cried Alick, spreading 
his arms to the heavens and speaking aloud with 
white face, seamed and twitching, ' take full 
possession. Never again let the enemy obtain an 
entrance. Thou canst command the devils and 
they obey Thee. Cast it out. Leave me not swept 
and garnished. Come in and take everlasting 
possession Thyself!' 

Long the unhappy prophet prayed and wept, 
harassed by repentance and dread anxiety for his 
soul's welfare. And he took his Bible and pored over 
the gentle Gospel words which seemed meant for 
such storm-tossed hearts as his. Patience and long- 



REFLECTION 51 

suffering, forbearance and mercy ; charity, which 
hopeth all things, enclureth all things, believeth all 
things, — these he perceived were the tender graces 
enjoined upon him ; and for reward, All things 
working together for his good ; and the promise, 
Thou shalt ask what thou wilt, and it shall be done ! 
Ah ! for grace and strength to obey ! Was it not once 
more a test proposed by Heaven of his obedience 
and his faith ? His prayers would all be answered, 
his conflicts would all be won, if — if he could keep 
under and bring into subjection these passions from 
the Evil One; anger, jealousy, malice, and all unkind- 
ness — ay, even against the man who had deceived 
him ; against the man who was, after all, trying to 
steal from him his bride. Alick rose from his knees, 
strong, he hoped, in the strength of his Lord. He 
would walk humbly and delicately ; he would pray 
and fast the more. And so he trusted to win the 
peace of his soul, and — strange mixture of the 
spiritual and the natural ! — win too the heart of the 
woman he loved. 

So Alick, spiritually restored though still agitated, 
preached his sermon ; and then he visited the sick, 
and pleaded with this one, reprimanded that, helped 
and consoled a tliird, with more heavenly glamour, 
with more zeal, and with more consequent good 
results, than had Mr. Bryant himself. 

For the clergyman also was going about the 



LIBRARY 

UNIVERSITY OF ILLlNOfS 



52 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

parish, and I should not be justified in saying that 
his methods were faulty or his desire to do good 
weak or insincere. But the devil is clever, and 
aims his temptations only at our vulnerable points. 
He sows our tares in kindly ground, while he lets 
our wheat flourish as long as it may. Mr. Bryant 
was a good clergyman enough, but a demon had 
taken possession of him also, and his prayers for 
deliverance were less heartfelt than Alick's. The 
people perhaps felt the difference, and for one 
convert of Mr. Bryant's, Alick could show ten. 

Mr. Bryant began it so gradually that it had 
become a habit before he knew of its existence, — 
he let it appear that to liis agency was due the 
change for the better at Everwell. He gained the 
reputation of a saint. It is hard to say how he 
could have avoided the false character, but at any 
rate lie did not try. Mr. Stokes of Appleside-le- 
Hole wrote with the deepest veneration asking him 
to undertake the Mission he wished to hold in his 
parish in September. Mr. Bryant agreed. Another 
parson (who had a very noble parishioner already 
acquainted with Georgina) proposed a Eetreat for 
clerical brethren, when for a fortnight the assembled 
vicars and curates would observe monastic vows 
and spend their time in religious exercises. The 
Duke was understood to favour the proposal, and had 
offered the clergy the run of his park. Would Mr. 



REFLECTION 53 

Bryant attend, do some of the preaching, give hints 
as to his valuable parish method ? etc. Yes, Mr. 
Bryant would attend ; temporary retirement from 
worldly cares would please him ; also a chance of 
advertisement. It was years since Mr. Bryant 
had dreamed of promotion. All of a sudden lawn 
sleeves loomed before him as eventual possibilities. 
AMiy not ? "Was he not a man of influence, a 
scholar ? At the Eetreat he resolved to pose as a 
theologian. And if his daughter, who already knew 

half the peerage, were Lady Leicester All at 

once he remembered his wife — Emma — the farmer's 
daughter, who had lost her looks and never attained 
to style. Xo, she could never make a bishopess. 
A quiet lot was appointed for him. He must 
submit holily. And Georgina should represent the 
cleverness, the success, the gentility of the family. 



CHAPTEE IX 

Meanwhile my poor Emma spent the day with 
nerves entirely upset by the Everwell prophet. 
Her flight had been arrested by Alick's mother, who 
brought her into the parlour and tried to learn what 
had happened. ' Ann,' said Mrs. Bryant, trembling 
from head to foot, ' I shall be afraid to sleep in my 



54 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

bed while there's a man in the place who can look 
like that ! ' 

Mrs. Leach was never at a loss ; she threw her 
apron over her head, rocked herself backwards and 
forwards, and asked Emma if she said a thanksgiving 
every night and morning for having no children. 

' ]N'o, indeed I don't,' said Emma. 

' You would then,' sobbed Mrs. Leach, ' if you 
had a boy with a head like that.' 

Emma, who had never been unfriendly with 
Ann, felt a great longing for a talk with some one 
who had known her as a girl. She said she had 
understood every one thought so highly of Alick. 

' That's one of the symptoms,' replied Mrs. Leach. 
' I have a beautiful head ; but I never could make 
no one obey mey ; never. While if Alick lifts his 
little finger — ! Cause why ? They are afraid of 
his head breaking out, I do believe. I've been into 
next week many a time when he's wanted something 
I couldn't afford to give him ; like to-day. And he 
breaks out at you, does he ? Dear, dear, it's shocking! 
And all about two and sixpence for his missionary 
box. All the wants of my blessed boy's head are 
religiousable and holy ones.' 

Emma was relieved to hear half a crown was the 
source of his agitation, and gave it at once. ' You 
was always the kindest creature, Emma. Yes, I'll 
take it, because you are one of the family. It stands 



REFLECTION 55 

to reason I don't go talking of his head to strangers ; 
there's a many don't know he ever had one. It's an 
expense, it is. This week now, there he's been 
preaching and preaching, and I don't say hey ain't 
the sweetest, convinciblest preacher ever come to 
Everwell. But it ain't 'paying. Maybe, Emma, 
you'd settle a doctor's bill for me now and again ? 
but la ! I'd as soon you didn't mention it to Mr. 
Bryant. " Jim," says I to the husband I had then, 
" I ain't one to talk my affairs on the housetop, and 
I don't want my poor boy's poor head flying all 
round the place." — " Ann," says Jim, " you are the 
prudentest, truthfuUest woman." So we kep it 
secret, and Alick along of his head has done a power 
of good in Everwell. It's like Gospel times come 
again. But I wouldn't have you not to tell Mr. 
Bryant, for he might stop the preachings, which 
would be a pity for Everwell ; and he might w^ant 
to shut my blessed boy's head up and cause the 
death of his mother. Men ain't like w^omen, Emma ; 
they don't think of what they are doing when they 
take a child from a mother. You had experience 
of that along of Mr. Bryant, hadn't you ? ' Emma 
was naturally affected by this allusion. ' Poor dear, 
poor dear,' said Ann Leach, ' you are the feelingest 
creature ! Jim always said so. My first Jim that 
was. You never knew Jim Leach. He was a very 
fine husband ; but not of the good family your 



56 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

brother was, Emma. Now Alick, your brother's 
son, is a deal what you might call more delicate 
looking than Sally there. Alick and Nannie don't 
look so ill-bred a couple I'm thinking. He don't 
match her so badly as if he had been Jim Leach's 
offspring.' 

' Oh, what a lovely girl she is ! ' exclaimed Mrs. 
Bryant, impetuously. For the first time she had an 
opportunity of praising Nannie. 

Ann nodded her head emphatically. ' She 
favours you, my dear,' she said. 

' I don't know what it is takes me so with that 
girl ! ' cried Emma. 

' You have a mother's heart, Emma, like mine,' 
replied Mrs. Leach, who delighted in wandering 
round her secret. 

' Oh, Ann, what wouldn't I give for a sweet girl 
of my own like that ! If you have a mother's heart 
you will understand what I feel.' 

' I do, my dear. Both my Jims said I was a 
feeling woman. It's a pleasure to me to comfort 
any one. Let me comfort you, my poor dear sister- 
in-law.' 

' Doesn't it seem hard, Ann, that my child was 
the one to die when I loved her so ? and they don't 
seem so very fond of that Nannie. ]\Ir. Bryant was 
going to let me have Mary at home with me. He 
was very kind about it once he saw how I felt. 



REFLECTION 57 

And she died. Ann, you were with my baby when 
she died and I have never seen you since. Will 
you tell me about it now ? ' 

The reader, by this time acquainted with Ann 
Leach, who loved mystery and delighted in scenes, 
can easily supply the details of the conversation. 

' I'm a poor silly woman, Ann,' had sighed Mrs. 
Bryant, 'but I think I'll go mad sometimes looking 
at Nannie and fancying I see a look on her that it 
is impossible could be really on Sarah's child, Ann.' 

' I could tell you a many ideas I have, Emma, 
about those children, if I wasn't afraid of Mr. 
Bryant, and of Ben who was always uncommon 
violent like a bull.' 

* Yes — yes — tell me, Ann ! ' 

' I've thought a deal to myself sitting over the 
lire,' said Mrs. Leach, mysteriously ; and then she 
drew very close to her sister-in-law, and whispered. 

' Ann ! ' exclaimed Mrs. Bryant. She started 
from her chair and flung herself into Mrs. Leach's 
arms and wept upon her ample bosom. Ann herself 
was moved to tears, and she dried her own and 
Emma's eyes alternately with a capacious red pocket- 
handkerchief. 

' La, Emma, you are the feelingest creature. 
And if it wasn't for Dr. Yerrill's shock mixture, 
which I have by me, and which we can pour down 
each other's spines, we'd both be in hysterics, and 



58 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

objects of suspicion to Mr. Bryant and to Ben 
Kandle, who is more like a bull than a brother-in- 
law. It's my belief, as I have told you, my dear, 
and believe me, or believe me not, I've thought of 
it hundreds and hundreds and dozens of times.' 



CHAPTEK X 

' Dear Edward, I have something so important to 
tell you.' 

Mrs. Bryant had come in late for luncheon, and 
was in consequence much scolded by her hungry 
stepdaughter. 

' Now, Georgie, be quiet,' said the clergyman, 
pinching her ear. Mr. Bryant put his arm through 
his wife's and led her into the dining-room. She 
looked so flushed and bright that she reminded him 
of the Emma of his youth ; and his affectionate 
manner added to the illusive joy which was making 
her heart to dance. 

' Dear Ned ! ' she was saying to herself, ' no, I 
am not afraid to ask him to manage it for me some- 
how ! He has always been as sorry as I am that I 
did not have her long ago.' 

But it was not till evening that she got an 
opportunity for the keenly desired private talk. 



REFLECTION 59 

]\Ir. Bryant was kindly enough, but by this time he 
was tired and fussed by his day's work, and Emma 
found herself trembling after all. She told that she 
had been to see Ann. Mr. Bryant asked if the 
change in the woman was not lamentable ; and 
Emma could only stammer that she had always been 
fond of poor Ann. Mr. Bryant thought it best to 
pass over in silence this glaring instance of bad 
taste. 

' Well,' he said presently, ' what did you talk 
about ? Her son ? ' 

' A little. Oh, Edward,' ^she cried, with horrified 
recollection, ' I am quite certain that young man is 
mad ! ' Mr. Bryant laughed. 

' Oh, he's right enough. Was that your wonder- 
ful news, Emma ? ' 

' Xo, Ned, we talked of — Xannie.* 

' You are infatuated about Xannie. The Greeks, 
Emma, considered Infatuation the first of woes.' 

' !N'ed, I don't know how to tell you w^hat Ann 
said to me about Nannie.' 

' What ?' quickly and suspiciously. Mrs. Bryant 
joined her trembling hands round his arm. All the 
nice speeches she had prepared fled from her 
memory. 

' Oh, Edward, she is my child — my very own ! ' 
cried Mrs. Bryant. He flung her from him, 
shuddering. 



6o MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

' D — n that woman ! ' he muttered. It was all 
over with him now. Emma would never forgive 
him, and he would be revealed to the world as a 
cheat and a liar. 

And Emma waited with her hands clasped and 
a happy smile on her worn face. Dear Edward's 
silence seemed to her of happy omen. Of course he 
would have a moment's reluctance before he could 
say the words she longed to hear. There were in- 
conveniences connected with the darling child, which 
had always appeared tiresomely distinct to him. 
And most unfortunately, Edward had not taken a 
fancy to Nannie. But in a minute or two all would 
be right. She knew her affectionate, duty-loving, 
self-denying husband. 

'My dearest Emma, you distress me by your 
credulity, and I must say by the inattention you 
pay to my wishes. Did I not tell you I would not 
have that unhappy child mentioned to any one ? 
And of all people Ann Eandle is the most dangerous.' 

' Oh, Ned, I cannot help it now. Nannie is my 
own child ! I can't take no notice of her. Oh, just 
think for a moment how happy it makes me ! 
Ann told me.' 

' What did she tell you ? It is the greatest 
nonsense I ever heard. You would not believe any- 
thing on that drunken woman's authority ? ' 

' It was all quite sensible what she said, and 



REFLECTION 6i 

exactly what might have happened with two children 
just the same age. And I go by a deal more than 
just Ann's word. My heart has been drawn to 
Nannie from the first moment I saw her ' 

' Fiddlestrings, Emma.' 

' And she is like — so like ' 

' She has a likeness to you, her aunt. She is a 
vast deal more like Sarah, her mother.' 

' Oh, Edward 1 How can you say such a thing ? 
There is not one shadow of likeness ! ' 

Mr. Bryant saw he had gone too far and was 
silent. 

' She is like,' said Emma, with the sublime 
courage of maternity, ' she is like her father.' ]\Ir. 
Bryant started to his feet, white with rage. 

' How dare you mention that d — d scoundrel to 
me ? ' he said. 

Mrs. Bryant collapsed. There was a long silence. 
The clergyman again wrestled with himself to 
recover his self-possession. Emma hoped she had 
impressed him, but she began dimly to recognise 
that her husband's dislike to the child was not easy 
to overcome. She began to get ready a quiet and 
convincing speech, something on this pattern — 

' Dearest Edward, at first you did not understand 
how I loved my poor child. But when she became 
ill and died as we thought, then you realised how 
dear she was, and how wrong we had been to desert 



62 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

her for our own convenience. And I felt our having 
no children of our own was a judgment. And you 
told me then, and over and again, dearest Ned, and 
I know you meant it, dear husband, that if she had 
only lived, I should have had her at home with me 
to bring up myself. You said so only a day or two 
ago. And now, Edward, here she is, and we can 
repair our fault, and God has brought her to us, 
and He will be displeased if we refuse to do our 
duty, and will bring some other awful judgment 
upon us.' All this had Mrs. Bryant prepared. 

' What did that fool of a woman say, Emma ? ' 
asked Mr. Bryant, and the abruptness of the question 
scattered her thoughts again. ' Had she anything 
to go upon ? any proofs to offer ? Now, Emma, 
answer me,' as she stammered forth some futility, 
' what did that woman Ann say had occurred ? ' 

She said Sarah put it into her head first. She 
said when they were both quite little, only a few 
weeks old, they were as like as twins, and Sarah 
said she never would be certain they hadn't been 
mixed. Oh, Ned, it is a thing often happens in 
books ! Indeed it is quite likely. Sarah and Ann 
used to talk about it. I think it was queer of 
Sarah. She can't have cared much for her child 
to be content with a doubt. But she went on 
suspecting, and Ann suspected. But when Sarah 
died, Ann thought it was useless to say anything. 



REFLECTION 63 

She thought no one cared. Oh, Xed, it was because 
I never saw Ann in those days ! And she w^atched 
Nannie grow up, and got quite certain, and never 
said anything till she saw to-day how I cared ; and 
then she told me.' 

' Is that all she said ? ' 

' Yes, Edward, I think so ; except about her 
feelings and ' 

' Now listen, Emma,' said ]\Ir. Bryant, glad for 
once to be able to state a positive fact ; ' it is a 
tissue of lies ; an invention, trumped up by a 
designing woman to work on your emotions and get 
something out of you.' And he argued the matter 
neither unkindly nor unreasonably. Sarah had been 
a sensible woman ; the confusing of two infants was 
an incident not to be found outside the Family 
Herald novels. Ann herself should be fetched and 
made to confess the thing a fabrication from be- 
ginning to end. But Mr. Bryant might as well 
have talked to a wall. Argument was powerless 
against a woman like Emma. 

She wept and said : ' Edward, it won't make no 
difference to me, even if Sarah nor no one thought 
it. / know it is true. The likeness is there and you 
can't account for it. And I have that within me 
which tells me Nannie is my own child. I don't care 
what any one says.' Mr. Bryant kept his patience. 

' ]\Iy poor dear Emma ! ' he said, caressingly. 



64 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

' Oh, Edward,' she cried, ' you won't come be- 
tween my child and me ! Ned, you don't know the 
dreadful wicked woman I felt when I thought she 
had died because I had deserted her. I had cared 
more for being comfortable and well thought of, and 
having a home, than for my own child ; and God 
was angry. I know He was. He gave me a sad 
heart, and He never let me have the love of no 
other young girl since, such as Georgie.' 

He tried another tack. ' But, my love, what is 
it you wish to do ?' 

' A mother's part to my child. Even if no one 
but you knows she is mine.' Fortunately the 
project was vague. 

' My dear Emma, you cannot rob Ben of his 
daughter on such a cock-and-bull story as this. He 
would not admit it for a moment. ISTo, Emma, the 
thing is so plainly an imposition, — and a clumsy 
one, — that I forbid you to take any action in 
consequence. I should be false to my duty if I 
allowed you to destroy your reputation and your 
happiness on account of a designing woman's false- 
hood, and a hysterical infatuation. Besides, do you 
wish to harm the child herself ? A pretty kindness 
it would be to her, I must say, to take her from her 
honourable home and throw scorn upon her parent- 
age ! You wouldn't get much gratitude from her. It 
would be a positively wicked action so long as there 



REFLECTION 65 

was one doubt of the facts ; and instead of having 
only one doubt, you have not a single certainty.' 
He enlarged upon this theme. ' A\Tiy, Emma, you 
haven't con\dnced me, your nearest and dearest ! 
How could you expect to convince Ben or the poor 
child herself? My love, you would make her 
detest you. For her sake, if for none other, you 
must keep this fancy, or whatever you choose to 
call it, to yourself. Above all, don't say a word to 
Ben. He seems a little irritated with the girl. I 
tell you, she is a naughty little thing. If you were 
to put such an idea into his head, though his reason 
would not admit it for a moment, it might give him 
a prejudice against the poor girl, which would cause 
great unhappiness to her. Surely, Emma, you have 
the self-command, for the sake of her comfort and 
the happiness of many others whom you love, to 
bear your burden, and leave her in the undisputed 
enjoyment of her singularly happy and respectable 
home ? ' Mrs. Bryant wept. ' You will promise 
me, Emma ? My love, I insist.' 

She made one supreme effort more. ' Oh, Ned ! 
But if it was proved, as I am sure it can be — then 
you would see her right place would be with her 
mother.' 

'No, my dear. It grieves me to disappoint 
you ; but I must be plain. It would be impossible.' 
She started to her feet. 

VOL. II 24 



66 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

'Edward ! you have said — so often — if she had 
lived ' 

'Hush, Emma. My dearest, very probably 
knowing the contingency was impossible, I may, 
out of my affection for you, have said rather more 
than I meant. But I never contemplated having 
allowed you to acknowledge Mary Smith as your 
daughter. I should be a fool to dream of such 
a thing now.' 

' Ned, if she were called our niece ' It was 

unbearable. His patience failed. 

' I won't have her in the house, I tell you ! I 
won't have anything to say to her. Are you mad ? 
I have Greorgina to think of as well as you. She is 
already sacrificed enough to you,' he exclaimed, 
angrily. 

' Oh, Edward ! ' murmured the poor woman, 
frightened and reproachful ; and she said no more. 
She had put down her last card and he had 
trumped it. 



CHAPTEE XI 

About sundown Alick sought his love. As a bird 
to its mate, the wings of his desire hurried him 
along. He had almost forgotten that he was going 
to speak to her seriously of promises and plans. 



REFLECTION 67 

intermixed with strong warning and a little indigna- 
tion. There w^as something wrong with Alick to- 
day ; he could only think with an effort, and since 
Mrs. Bryant's communication his actions had been 
just about half voluntary. 

Outside the farmhouse, Alick came upon a 
pretty group. Patty, fresh and comely, sat on the 
lowest step hemming at the spotless linen which 
was to be part of Nannie's dowry. The farmer 
smoked the pipe of peace, and listened to Caroline's 
voice, mellowed by the distance, as she sang senti- 
mental ballads to her piano in the open- windowed 
parlour. On the green turf before them were 
Nannie and Joe, surrounded by a wealth of gathered 
flowers, which her dainty fingers w^ere weaving into 
a wreath. Joe, in his working clothes with a gay 
necktie, looked a fine handsome lad in those level 
rays of the sunlight which touch with glory every- 
thing upon which they fall. He had grown fond 
of his youngest sister, and was watching her now 
with prodigious admiration as she sat among the 
flowers ; tossing them about, tying them, and linger- 
ing lovingly over the loose yellow roses, the wdiite 
pinks and lilies, the forget-me-nots and pansies, 
spiked lupines and scarlet lobelias. Joe was by way 
of helping her, and now and then she threw some 
falling or useless blossom at him with careless 
gaiety, smiling when he pricked himself or pulled 



68 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

the heads off the best rosebuds with his clumsy 
fingers. Nannie was fair as a flower herself; her 
brother had adorned her little glowing head with a 
spray of myrtle blossom and leaf, and the girl, always 
with a touch of coquetry, held a blush rose against 
her cheek, as delicate, as pink, as transparent as its 
petals. 

Alick paused as he came up, for his artist eye 
could appreciate the picture. Only somehow he 
saw himself in it too, a dark crooked figure against 
the purple fire of the sky, his back to the sun, and 
his longing eyes fixed on the fair girl with the 
flowers. And then Nannie sprang to meet him ; 
she was apt to forget he was her lover ; she thought 
of him as her own particular brother, even as John 
belonged to Patty, and Joe (in theory at least) was 
a retainer of Caroline. So that her greeting was 
warm, and they all noticed it ; except Joe, who 
never noticed anything and had wanted to keep 
Nannie for himself 

Alick noticed it too, and it seemed a good omen ; 
surely his leading was very clear ! and that very 
morning his uncle had spoken to him and bidden 
the backward suitor come to terms with the girl. 
So presently, before them all, Alick drew Nannie's 
arm in his and led her away down the garden, his 
heart swelling with love and hope, and his jealousy 
forgotten. They said no word till they had reached 



REFLECTION 69 

the bower of weeping ash, on the wooden floor of 
which Xannie had made Joe carve — 

' Here shall we see no enemy, but winter and rough weather.' 

They sat down side by side, she looking a little 
queen with her myrtle wreath ; and it was still 
some minutes before he could speak. Hope was a 
rare visitor to AHck, and he was afraid of frightening 
it away. 

' Nannie,' said the man at last in a low voice, 
* did you ever read the first chapter of Matthew ? ' 
Xannie was on the defensive by this time, and 
answered flippantly — 

' Yes, Alick ; it has a lot of names in it. And 
such ugly ones. I don't Hke Jew names at all.' 

' Do you remember, lass, about the dream Joseph 
had, when the angel said, " Fear not, Joseph, to 
take unto thee Mary thy wife " ? ' 

* Ay. It wasn't pretty of him to need a dream 
lest he should think ill of her.' 

* Thou would not have had Joseph refuse to obey 
the vision, Nannie ? And Mary, thou would not 
have had her be disobedient ? ' 

' It wasn't her dream, Alick. And if I had been 
Mary and had hved then, I'd never have married 
Joseph without I'd wanted to 1 ' cried Nannie. 

' Ah, lass, she was the blessed virgin and would 
not have gone against God's leading, I cannot 



70 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

believe, Nannie, that you would want to do that. 
I cannot believe you mean it when you talk naughty 
like that ! ' Nannie was silent for a minute ; then 
she said gravely, perceiving that the conversation 
was not to be staved off — 

' No, Alick ; I wouldn't go against God's will. 
But we don't always know what it is.' 

' Nannie,' replied her lover, ' God sends visions 
still to people if they only look for them. He 
didn't end that kind of thing with Joseph and Paul 
and such like. God sent me a dream, Nannie,' said 
the preacher, with quiet certainty, ' and it had a 
message in it for you, just as Joseph's had for Mary.' 
Nannie glanced at him but kept silence. ' I saw 
thee, Nannie, with flowers about and around thee, 
as they are to-night. An angel held thy hand, 
lass, and brought thee to me. And we knelt to- 
gether at the temple steps, and God Himself 
said the blessing over us ; and thou wast my bride. 
I saw thee very clear, Nannie, and God's angel 
bringing thee to me. And after that we were to- 
gether in a garden of Paradise ; and we praised 
God together, and where we went there was blessing.' 
The girl trembled with the superstitious awe of 
Alick which had pervaded Everwell. She raised 
her hand and removed Joe's myrtle crown from her 
hair, throwing it on the ground ; and she lifted her 
downcast eyes and looked at her cousin fearfully. 



REFLECTION 71 

but said nothing. Till Alick stretched forth his 
hands and cried in a low voice of very human en- 
treaty, ' Nannie, thou must come to me ! I cannot 
go on without thee ! ' 

' Alick, no ! no 1' cried the girl, much distressed, 
and with a feeling, terrible to her, that she had 
deceived him ; ' oh, believe me, it wouldn't be right. 
I have had no dream, Alick ! and oh, dreams are 
such shadowy things ! I have to do with reality, 

and I cannot wed you ; because Oh, Alick, 1 

do ! I love another.' 

Nannie had not believed the confession would be 
so hard. She had her hand on Vincent's ring, and 
was trying to strengthen herself in the recollection 
of her dear lover's embrace on the silent hillside, 
and his words of faith and love which had been so 
good to hear. But she could not get rid of a slight 
feeling of guilt ; and the prophet frightened her. 
She expected an explosion of wrath ; but the effect 
on Alick was altogether different, and caused her a 
degree of wonder which increased her awe. How 
was it too that he seemed to know all about her 
and her lover ? 

' Nannie,' said the preacher, gravely, ' that is not 
love you feel for yon man, nor that he feels for you. 
If you and he were wedded, it would not be a 
marriage made in heaven, and you could not ask 
God's blessing on it.' 



72 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

' Alick, I could,' interrupted Nannie, faintly ; ' I 
am not afraid to speak to God of it ! ' 

He went on unheeding. 

* It's a temptation sent to try you, Nannie, and 
you have not yielded. You have discerned God's 
leading and have turned away. And now you 
must come to me, lass ; and I pray God you may 
soon learn what true God-sent love is — better than 
any earthly kisses.' 

' Did you know I kissed him, Alick ? ' murmured 
Nannie, with a shiver. And as he stood silently 
looking at her, accusingly and pityingly, with the 
same relentless soul -pressure that had set the 
people at the prayer meeting confessing their sins 
and beseeching mercy, she covered her face with 
her hands, and sobbed, and trembled, as if she had 
done something wrong, and was in the presence of 
a judge. By degrees she told him pretty nearly 
all that had passed between herself and Vincent, 
making faint efforts to defend herself, and faint 
efforts to resist the spell her cousin was weaving 
round her spirit by the mere awe of his goodness. 

' Oh, Alick,' cried the poor child, ' I do not want 
to fight against God ! Maybe you are right, and 
it might have been better for us all if I could have 
loved you. Indeed I was fond of you. I'd have 
been fonder if I could. If I found I had grown to 
love you best, I would tell him so. But I will not 



REFLECTION 73 

go hack of anything unless I am changed to him. I 
cannot say no more, Alick. Oh, do try to forgive 
me, Alick ! I never meant to deceive you ; and 
indeed, indeed there is no call for you to be angry 
with him' she ended, anxiously. 

' It's cruel work, lass, for a man to love a woman 
he cannot wed. Thou must not expect that of thy 
lovers, Nannie. If he had not been an honest man, 
Nannie,' said the poor gentle prophet, praying in his 
heart for a firm hold of that charity which believeth 
all things, endureth all things, ' he might have taken 
an advantage of thee.' 

' Oh, dear Alick, you are good ! ' cried Nannie, 
impetuously, grateful for this unexpected confidence 
in Vincent. 

Various members of the family, who had been 
spying after them, thought they seemed very affec- 
tionate together, and were not seriously disquieted 
upon hearing that the bethrothal was not exactly 
concluded yet, though Alick had good hopes. 

Nannie cried herself to sleep that night, feeling 
naughty in her dear secret, and so strongly con- 
vinced of Alick's holiness that she was ready to 
give at least her soul to him already. And she was 
only seventeen, and separated far more than was 
wholesome from the lover to whom she had pledged 
her heart ; and with no mother nor friend in whom 
she could confide. She saw no duty in telling her 



74 MR. BR YANTS MISTAKE 

father of these intricate matters, nor indeed did 
Alick think of betraying her confidence. If Mr. 
Eandle were to learn about Sir Vincent, he was 
quite capable of flinging ' the red hair,' as he called 
Nannie, clean out of the window — a proceeding 
unlikely permanently to benefit any one. 

But reaction is a law of nature ; so the girl slept 
at last, and with a slumber rosy enough, and a dream 
of Vincent, and of Viola's ultimate happiness as 
her own. She woke telling herself that ' morning 
dreams come true,' and she felt most wonderfully 
cheered, coming down to breakfast fresh as a daisy 
after her short slumber, and longing for her dear 
lover, but more for the sake of smiles and play- 
making, than for tears about Alick, the awe-inspiring 
prophet, who had nearly persuaded her she was 
doing something wrong. Alick was not at all so 
awful to her when he was not present ; and this 
morning the conscience-stricken feeling had passed ; 
indeed Nannie felt ashamed of it now and had no 
wish to confess it to her lover, for it seemed some- 
how derogatory to him. But she did want to tell 
him that Alick had been love-making again ; and 
that she and her cousin had arrived at what in her 
reactionary mood seemed to her a highly ingenious 
and satisfactory compromise. Namely, she was to 
come to no formal decision between her sweethearts 
for six weeks, during which Alick was to treat her 



REFLECTION 75 

absolutely as a sister, and she in return for this 
forbearance was to be much in his society and to 
aid him in his missionary work ; at the end of the 
probation he was to ask her again and to accept 
her answer — 'No,' of course it would be — as 
absolutely final; so all her trouble with him would 
be ended. 

Sir Vincent came in that morning to see Mr. 
Eandle about the pure streamlet he wanted to 
connect with the village, and when the long and, to 
Nannie, very dull conversation was over, and the 
gentleman was going away, he stepped to the 
window, where Caroline and Nannie were busy 
ironing, and said a few pleasant words, regarded by 
the elder sister as an attention entirely to herself. 
Nevertheless Nannie found means to whisper with- 
out raising her eyes, ' I want to speak to you some 
time,' and Vincent answered in the same tone, ' This 
evening in the glen.' Then he rode away, and for 
the first time they had the delightful excitement of 
an assignation. 



CHAPTER XII 

Vincent, however, was not allowed to go to the 
tryst, so innocently requested and so gladly 



1(> MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

granted without a strong reminder that he had 
bound himself in nowise to bring the confiding 
child to harm. He received a visit from Alick. 

It was a much calmer interview than their last 
upon the same subject. They had both grown 
older and it was to be hoped wiser since then. 
Alick to-day had himself so well in hand, and 
spoke with so much feeling, earnestness, and sincerity 
of purpose, that Vincent could not choose but listen, 
and indeed with respect. Truly the Christian 
graces of charity and forbearance sat well upon the 
prophet ! Yet Alick spoke plainly enough. 

' I was always afraid of you with her, sir. My 
eyes were opened to see there was something in your 
mind long ago ; and it was the good spirit moved 
me when I asked you to promise there should never 
be no courting between you and her. And now 
after all you have deceived me ! ' 

' I gave you no promise,' said Vincent ; but he 
was touched, and added, ' There has been no courting 
of the sort you feared then between Nannie and 
me. It was out of the question with her ; but I 
think you were right to warn me, and I am glad to 
have the opportunity of thanking you for doing so. 
We are on a different footing now, and you must 
allow me to say I have as much right to press my 
suit upon Nannie as have you or any other honest 
man.' 



REFLECTION 77 

' No, sir/ said Alick, gravely but respectfully, ' it 
don't make your conduct right. There can't be no 
propriety in love-making between Nannie and you. 
She ain't fit to be your wife, and you know it better 
than she. If you asked her, it was because your 
conscience made you do it after kissing her. You 
knew, being the girl she is, she'd say No. You 
weren't prepared to have her say Yes, and I doubt 
if she had, you'd have found out quick enough as 
the thing was impossible, and you wasn't able to 
carry it through.' There was a sort of terrible sub- 
stratum of truth in all this, and Vincent did not 
answer without reflection. 

* You are wrong if you think I am not ready to 
face the responsibilities of the step I have taken,' 
he said, quietly. 

* Sir,' said Alick, ' I was presumptuous in telling 
you she was promised to me, when she hadn't given 
me her word ; but I am not surer of my own 
salvation than I am sure that I am bidden to take 
Nannie Eandle for my wife.' 

' I feel a repugnance to that kind of speech,' 
replied Vincent ; ' you cannot take her against her 
will' 

' Sir", if ever you had heard the heavenly voice, 
telling you what to do you would not dare to dis- 
obey. Am I to resist the will of my God, because 
one who could give her no happiness, and who isn't, 



78 MR. Bryant's mistake 

I'm afraid, set before all things on walking with her 
along the heavenly path, and who wouldn't for her 
sake deny himself the pleasure of a kiss and a soft 
word and a promise which he knew in his heart he 
couldn't keep — am I to resist God's will because 
that man has stolen my girl's heart from me ? ' 

Vincent answered kindly — 'That is all non- 
sense, you know, about voices and visions. Neither 
you nor I have a shadow of right to coerce her. A 
true lover would give her up to the man she loves, 
and wish with his whole heart for her happiness.' 
He held out his hand with his pleasant smile and 
signified that the interview was ended. Not so, 
thought Alick. 

' It's easy to talk of what a lover should do, sir, 
but I haven't heard so much as that you do love 
her yet. I doubt she's no more to you than a 
pretty lass who could give you a bit of pleasure ; 
and you think it would be enough if you gave her 
a bit of pleasure for a while too. You don't consider 
as how she'd be miserable afterwards with a husband 
who was ashamed of her, and stuck up among folk 
who thought her a forward hussy, as let herself 
be bought dear or cheap, it don't matter which, by a 
man who was bound to tire of her.' 

' Come, Alick, we have said enough. I can't 
listen to such words of Nannie.' 

* Ay, you gentlefolk are mighty careful what you 



REFLECTION 79 

say of other folk. But you have your thoughts in 
your hearts, I reckon. You'll be thmking worse 
of Nannie some day and treating her according, 
though now you fancy me uncivil because I say 
aloud she may be vain, and a bit light, and worked 
upon like other women, by the world, and the flesh, 
sir, if not by the devil. For all I say that, I love 
her and I think more highly on her than you do ; 
and it's because I think most of her real happiness 
and her growing up a good woman in the place 
God has put her, that I'd save her from a bit of 
folly now, as might drive her in the end to perdi- 
tion. And if you think she wouldn't be willing, 
sir — why you know she has turned away from you 
like a brave lass, and as things are with us, there 
ain't no one she can turn to but me. If you go 
pursuing after her and teaching her to overcome her 
better self, which knows she shouldn't be thinking 
and lusting after you that God has separated from 
her by breeding and station and all your ways of 
thought, then it's you will be forcing her, and not 
giving her her free will and her right to choose, 
not the man she fancies maybe, but the man 
whom God has appointed for her, and whose love 
is strong enough to help her even against herself. 
You'll pardon me, if I have said too much, sir,' 
ended the prophet. 

Within sound of such earnestness, eloquent in 



8o MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

its simplicity, Vincent felt himself a dumb idiot. 
But then he had heard no holy voices, and was 
not nearly so certain as Alick of his own 
wisdom. 

' Nannie has not turned from me so decidedly as 
you think/ he replied ; ' but I will remember what 
you have said, and will think it over before I speak 
to her next and while she and I are together.' 

And he did so. It is confusing work trying to 
disentangle one's own interests and desires from 
those of other people. But Vincent did ask himself 
very seriously a question which ever afterwards 
retained in his mind its importance. Had he been 
thinking enough of sweet Nannie's happiness ? or 
had his hesitation been mainly about semi-imaginary 
dangers to himself? 

Well, he would not coerce her. He would 
continue to see and speak to her as opportunity 
served ; but perhaps for the present, it were well 
to pose rather as friend than lover. However, he 
only said, ' perhaps ' ; and unfortunately that kind of 
resolution has small chance of being acted upon, 
unless very firmly fixed indeed. One tender glance 
from a pair of soft, sweet eyes can prove it an 
absurdity. 



REFLECTION Si 



CHAP TEE XIII 

Their greeting was one of great stiffness and pro- 
priety, and Xannie tried not to smile. But without 
looking at him Xannie knew he was smiling at her, 
and the thing was infectious. They even laughed 
a little, they were in each other's presence so ridicu- 
lously and completely happy. Xannie in her 
reactionary mood could be nothing but joyous 
to-night. She could make nothing tragic out of her 
confession about Alick, and Vincent was by far the 
more circumspect and serious of the two. But 
every time they met now he was finding in her some 
new charm ; yesterday the depth of tenderness and 
gentle thought in her starry eyes ; to-night their 
innocent sparkle and girlish glee. 

' I can't help Alick teasing me once again ' — so 
ended her long tale, ' but I do think he will let me 
alone after that ! You aren't angry with me, are 
you ? ' she whispered, coaxingiy, looking up into his 
eyes. 

'Will you meet me every day for six weeks 
too ? ' asked Vincent, looking down into hers. 

' Oh no ! But don't you see, sir, Alick has 
promised not to talk to me about those things.' 

' What things ? ' said the lover, putting his 
VOL. II 25 



82 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

finger on her happy dimple. Nannie lifted it away, 
but let her hand linger for a moment round the 
intrusive finger. 

' The things you like talking to me about/ said 
Nannie, very demurely. 

He laughed. ' That is Alick's method of courting 
all the same ; it is not fair to give him so much 
advantage. Such strong doses of prudence and 
theology will be taking effect upon you, Nannie.' 

' Do you mean I oughtn't to listen ? ' 

' You ought to let me sometimes administer an 
antidote.' 

' What is that ? ' 

' Here is one,' said Vincent, touching her cheek 
with his lips ; ' seriously, my Nannie, I don't like it. 
Alick is a powerful fellow. He makes the tables 
and chairs run after him, and he has too much 
influence over you already. We shall be quarrelling 
about him some day. Oh yes ! I see my ring on 
your finger now ; but it wasn't there this morning. 
It would be better for us both if you wore it 
openly.' 

' But ' 

' I know what you mean by " but." Listen, 
Nannie ; I have been scolded by this Alick, and I 
am in a horribly unromantic mood to-night. I 
have been thinking things over, which is always 
dangerous. Our promise to each other, Nannie, is 



REFLECTION ^i 

not definite enough to be very binding. The ring 
only means we are allowing ourselves that degree 
of intimacy which a probability of future ties may 
render justifiable.' Nannie looked frightened. 

' I said I knew I oughtn't to bind youl she said. 

' I am not referring to myself It is not I who 
am not ready to be bound ; it is you. This is not 
at all the way I like talking to you, Nannie, but it 
must be done ; unless you will solemnly pledge 
yourself now, my treasure, to marry me ? That 
would be the best way, my sweet one.' She shook 
her head. 

' Still afraid ? Then, Nannie, it comes to this : 
you are at liberty to chuck me over any day and 
go off and marry somebody else ; and I have no 
claim to assert ; and, I suppose, no right to be angry,' 
said Yincent, gazing at her anxiously. 

' But I shall not do that. I shall never marry 
— any one, else' she added in a whisper. 

'Then, if you mean it, you must be careful 
what you do about Alick. You can't have two 
sweethearts, that is all.' 

Some spirit of mockery seemed to come into 
Nannie, for a suppressed smile played deliciously 
round her lips. 

' Wliat does it all mean ? ' she asked. Yincent 
took her hands in his. 

' It means, dear Nannie, that our present relation 



84 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

is too undecided and fantastic to last ; we may 
manage it for a little time, but soon it is bound to 
change into something firmer — separation ; or a close 
and a dear bond, betrothal, Nannie. If you mean 
it to be that, I won't have you flirting with Alick ; 
if you mean it to be separation you shouldn't be 
flirting with me,' and he drew her head down on 
his shoulder. 

' Maybe you had better not kiss me any more,' 
said Nannie, with smiling eyes. Then she pouted 
her rosy lips in an inviting sort of way, and Vincent 
had not been human if he had not answered the 
remark by kissing them at once. ' But what am I 
to do, if I want to speak to you ? ' said the girl ; ' how 
could we have said all this with Caroline listening ? ' 

' How indeed ? ' 

' Is all that flirting with you, sir ? ' . 

' Yes ; horrible flirting.' 

' What is flirting with Alick, please, sir ? You 
don't suppose he kisses me ? ' 

' I am sure I hope not.' 

' If I wanted to speak to him, I might ask him 
to meet me here perhaps.' 

' Eeally ? ' 

' If he wanted to speak to me, I should listen. 
Mayn't I do all that ? ' 

' I don't want to make rules, silly child.' 

'Wouldn't it be very unfortunate if we took 



REFLECTION 85 

up different ideas of what flirting with Alick 
is ?' 

' Very. It is exactly what I am afraid of.' 

' You mustn't go getting jealous all about 
nothing,' said Nannie, with her regal air. 

' You acknowledge then, sweet one, that I have 
a right to be jealous ? ' He drew her in his arms. 
' Nannie, we are not pledged yet ; but I mean to 
have you some day ! ' 

'I wish it was some day now!' breathed Nannie. 

' If it isn't a promise, little coquette, it is the 
next thins: to it,' said Vincent. 

' I think you are silly to be so jealous,' she 
replied, imperiously. 

He thought so too at the moment ; but days of 
separation followed, and the insolidity of the fantastic 
bond roused his fears again. Alick had so many 
opportunities of strengthening his influence ; he 
himself so few, and those so difficult and almost, it 
seemed, tins^ed with guilt. 



PAET VI 
THE TURN OF THE TIDE 



CHAPTEE I 

The days passed on making no very perceptible 
change for any one. Alick continued to fast and to 
pray and to preach, now and then working a miracle 
or two, to the delight of his followers and the com- 
fort of his own soul. In the face of much visible 
improvement in the manners of the fishing popula- 
tion, no one cared to criticise over-much the methods 
of the reformer. And neither Alick himself nor 
any one else observed that he was beginning to look 
haggard and overstrained, as if his frail earthly 
part could scarce endure so much activity of the 
spirit. For himself he was quite happy ; he had 
a position like that of Isaiah or Ezekiel ; and Nannie 
was good to him ; and at the end of the appointed 
time God would give him his bride ; for prayer still 
seemed to Alick as a Wishing Cap ; and all doubt 
of its efficacy, irreverence. 

As to Nannie, she thought the complication with 
Alick all but at an end ; he had subsided into his 
proper position of friend, brother, and spiritual 



90 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

adviser. The girl was perfectly contented to go on 
for ever as things were. She and Sir Vincent con- 
tinued to meet sometimes ; and oh how delicious 
those secret meetings were to him no less than to 
her ! The one only thing that vexed Nannie at this 
time was her dear lover's impatience to have his 
darling with him always ; and was not that just the 
very prettiest source of vexation that any one could 
possibly think of? Nannie did not really want to 
be without it ; she was happy as a queen. 

But Vincent himself was far more impatient than 
he dared to tell Nannie, and that not merely because 
his passion was daily deepening and increasing. The 
fact was he had begun to recognise the scenery of By- 
path Meadow and had grown anxious to be out of it. 
The stolen meetings, the endearing words, and innocent 
embraces left Vincent restless and unhappy ; he felt 
his present relation to the gentle girl unexplainable 
if not dangerous ; secrecy and concealments were 
abhorrent to his nature. Moreover, though their 
intercourse was far too affectionate to suppose the 
delicate-minded Nannie's intention doubtful, Vincent 
did not feel sure that its fulfilment was certain. 
The truce with Alick seemed to him abnormal and 
to be distrusted ; he had vague fears of family 
influence and atmosphere, and a positive dread of 
that detestable monster Common-sense, which indeed 
he only kept down himself by vigilance and force, and 



THE TURN OF THE TIDE 91 

a constant strengthening of his spirit in the beauty 
of the beloved. Meanwhile the sweet stolen inter- 
views continued. 

One evening, and those summer evenings at 
Everwell tempt out the laziest, Vincent met Georgina 
and her father taking a late ramble together. 

Miss Bryant quickly discovered that the recusant 
was hurried as he answered her airy speeches ; and 
then noticing that he disappeared in the direction 
of the farmhouse glen, she contrived after an interval 
to lead her father by the same path. 'Mrs. 
Bryant wants some moss for her rockery,' said 
the good-natured stepdaughter. After a tune she 
paused, to draw breath he supposed. 

' I did not know you could climb so well, Georgie,' 
said Mr. Bryant. 

'Hush, papa,' whispered Georgina. 'We must not 
intrude upon those people,' and she pointed to a big 
boulder-stone below; 'look; down there in the shadow.' 

' A^Hiy, that is Vincent I ' exclaimed Mr. Bryant^ 
impulsively. He regretted the speech at once. 
' The grass is very damp, Georgie,' he said, ' I think 
we had better be returning now. Come away, my 
dear. I — I am very anxious to get home.' 

Georgina could have laughed at her father's 
discomfiture. But she threw her moss away with 
well-acted agitation, and then hung wearily on his 
arm, her head drooping. 



92 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

' My dearest child, what is the matter ? ' he 
asked, affectionately, hearing a sob. 

' Oh, papa ' — brokenly — ' did you see V 

'Why yes, Georgie, I did.' Mr. Bryant made 
light of it. ' No doubt Vincent thought he ought 
to speak to one of his tenants.' 

' Such a pretty one ? And put his arm round 
her, papa ?' 

' No. That would be most improper. I saw 
nothing of that sort, Georgina. They were talking 
too much perhaps. Give him a laughing lecture 
Georgie.' 

' Oh, papa ! I am so unhappy. I didn't think 
he would amuse himself with a girl of that sort. 
He is not what I thought ' — sob — ' I am sometimes 
afraid he has been only amusing himself with me ' — 
dreadful sobs — ' oh ! my heart will break ! After 
all he has said to me — since I came here — yesterday 
even. I can't bear it !' 

' If Leicester has been making love to you, 
Georgie,' said Mr. Bryant, hotly, ' we shall soon 
bring him to the point. He is upright, I am con- 
vinced. But, my dear Georgina, I was afraid — he 
had not always been quite so affectionate as my 
silly little woman had expected.' 

' Papa, I know ; not when people were looking. 
I have wondered sometimes. But when we have 
been alone ' — sobs — ' I am beginning to be afraid 



THE TURN OF THE TIDE 93 

he has only been amusing himself. And now to 
see him with a horrid girl like that — but indeed 
Mrs. Bryant had told me ' 

' What did Emma tell you ? i\Iy dear child, you 
are mistaken about Vincent. I have faith in him. 
If he has been paying you attention, I am sure his 
intentions are serious,' said the clergyman, with 
emphasis. 

But Mr. Bryant was far more disturbed than he 
chose to admit to Georgina, for anything in which 
Nannie appeared as an agent assumed at once 
enormous and odious importance in his eyes. The 
idea of her beincr Georsrina's rival for two minutes ! 

o o 

That beautiful damsel went to her room in tears, 
saying she was too much upset to come down again. 
She locked her door, put on her dressing-gown, and 
sat down with the greatest interest to alter a bonnet. 
Mr. Bryant sought his wife. 

' What is this about Vincent Leicester and that 
girl IS'annie ? really, Emma, if you had anything to 
say, you ought to have spoken on such a subject to 
me, not to Georgina.' 

' I never said one word to Georgie about 
Nannie!' cried Mrs. Bryant, astounded. 

'You did about Leicester then. You knew he 
was making a fool of himself with that girl ? ' 

' Oh dear, Edward, who has told you about it ? 
It can't be going on still !' 



94 MR, BRYANTS MISTAKE 

' Why, we saw them together ! Not good taste 
on his part, I must say. It's just a vulgar flh'ta- 
tion, I suppose ? The last thing I should have 
expected of Leicester. You can't mean there is 
any serious entanglement ? Why, the man is 
engaged to Georgina 1 It is scandalous !' 

' I don't know what we have to go upon in 
thinking he's engaged to Georgie,' said Mrs. Bryant • 
whose ideas and wishes about Vincent had been 
getting a little undecided during the last week or 
two. 

' He has made her in love with him ! That's 
what it comes to. You have no conception of that 
child's depth of feeling, Emma. She is naturally 
much upset by this stupid exhibition of his. I 
can't have my girl trifled with,' said Mr. Bryant, 
getting hot. ' He shall be made to declare him- 
self 

' I'm a deal more afraid of his trifling with some 
one else. Oh, Ned, don't you see, now, how necessary 
it is I should take care of her ? ' 

' Well ! ' exclaimed the clergyman, ' I always 
knew she was a deceitful, forward minx ; it is 
proved now.' Mrs. Bryant was alarmed. 

' Oh my, Ned ! What were they doing ? ' 

' Doing ? Nothing when we saw them ; only 
talking there in the glen by themselves. I didn't 
think anything of it, except that he'd have been 



THE TURN OF THE TIDE 95 

better away. It is you, Emma, who lead me to 
suppose there is something serious. Come now, 
tell me all you know.' 

' I haven't rested day nor night since I found 
out,' said the mother. ' Poor dear, she doesn't know 
what she's doing ! She told me of it herself.' 

' How far has it gone ? 'WTiat did she tell you ? ' 

' She told me he had made love to her and 
wanted to marry her.' 

'You believed that gammon V said Mr. Bryant, 
who was getting more angry every minute. ' Well, 
now you ought to be convinced what she is. Oh, it 
isn't the first I have heard of her conduct, I can tell 
you ! Come now, Emma, as you take an extravagant 
interest in this young woman, I beg you'll exert 
your influence to get her out of the place. We 
can't have Leicester behaving in this way. It's the 
sort of thing would damage him immeasurably.' 

' Oh, Edward, you are very cruel. If you would 
only care a little for the poor dear child, and try to 
help licr V 

' I am too old for sentimentality. "Wlien a girl 
takes to that kind of behaviour, it's precious little 
any one can do for her.' 

' I can't think, Edward,' said Mrs. Bryant, rising, 
' how you can speak so to me, when it's about her, and 
when you know that much the very same happened 
to me, and yet you thought me good enough to be 



96 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

your own wife ; and I have been a good wife to yon, 
and you know it ! ' 

This reproof sobered the angry man somewhat. 

' My dear, you were innocent from beginning to 
end of that nefarious transaction. I do not expect 
to meet your likeness in every vain, flaunting, un- 
principled ' 

' Edward, I will not endure it ! She is my 
child !' He stamped his foot. 

' You are mad, Emma, to go on referring in this 
way to what is obliterated.' 

Mrs. Bryant joined her hands in supplicating 
misery. ' Edward, once before you wanted to make 
me deceive. You wanted to pretend I wasn't never 
Emma Eandle. It found us out. Every one here 
has had to learn that I was Emma Eandle. And 
this other will find us out too.' 

But her pleading was vain. Mr. Bryant had 
embarked on a voyage of deception, and it is the 
peculiarity of that excursion that the return journey 
cannot be accomplished without shipwreck. He 
resolved to press on, disregarding minor accidents 
such as mere quarrels with his wife or injustice to 
an innocent girl ; if indeed Nannie were innocent. 
He hated her so much that he couldn't believe it. 



THE TURN OF THE TIDE 97 



CHAPTER II 

Mr. Bryant, however, had embarked on this voyage 
with a good deal of conscience as cargo. His con- 
science told him that to fulfil his duty to his own 
former pupil, to the detestable Nannie, and to his be- 
loved daughter, he must take some notice of the vulgar, 
disastrous, and no doubt guilty intrigue the young 
man seemed to have drifted into. Mr. Bryant was 
no bad hand at reproving a fisherman or a roster- 
monger. He had before now given Vincent Leicester 
and his peers many a pleasant hint or friendly 
expostulation, which had cost him no special pains 
and had not been unsalutary in effect. But those 
days of straightforward independence were gone by. 
Mr. Bryant wanted the baronet to marry his 
daughter, and he had to think twice before offend- 
ing a man of that quality. 

He was unfortunate in the moment he chose for 
his delicate task, for Vincent was in the middle of 
a little altercation with his mother ; the subject, his 
uncle Frederick Kane, who had turned up again and 
seemed to the impatient nephew to have no inten- 
tion of ever going away. 

' It is so unfortunate, dear,' said the gentle lady, 
' that you should have to take so much decided 
VOL. II 26 



98 MR. BR YANTS MISTAKE 

action when you have so little experience. I wish 
you would let your uncle advise you a little.' 

'My uncle confuses and demoralises me,' ex- 
claimed Vincent, ' and I'll be hanged if I stand 
him ! ' Vincent as a matter of fact was in the 
right, as Lady Katharine would have been the first 
to acknowledge had she ever understood her brother ; 
but the widow could not approve her son's manner. 
In her day young people had always treated their 
elders with great deference, and though slow to 
admit evil of any one, she did think her son and a 
great many of his friends sometimes inclined 'to 
forget themselves.' 

' It is your own house, Vincent,' she said, stiffly. 
And for five minutes the son sulked too, and con- 
sidered — for five minutes — that his mother was a 
difficult person to get on with. And before the 
five minutes were over in came Mr. Bryant, with 
his censures and good advice. 

He never produced either. Vincent flung up 
his head long before a hint of Nannie had come 
into the conversation, and Mr. Bryant did not dare 
the risk. Even at the cost of neglecting his duty, 
and perhaps harming the soul of his distinguished 
parishioner, the clergyman resolved to hold his 
peace. His patron might snub him ; and to a man 
who has risen a snub is apt to prove fatal. He 
resolved to combat the young man's departure from 



THE TURN OF THE TIDE 99 

propriety by underground means. So he talked 
away pleasantly ; unwittingly reconciled the mother 
and son ; and was introduced to Mr. Kane, who 
was most affable, and won Mr. Bryant's heart com- 
pletely, as indeed an ' honourable ' gentleman was 
pretty sure to do. There was a conversation after 
Lady Katharine's own heart about sermons and 
sacraments; how she wished her dear boy could 
interest himself in such things like her dear brother ! 
Vincent was nearly wild with annoyance ; at his 
innocent mother, his cynical uncle with his tongue 
in his cheek, and at Mr. Bryant, who would not see 
he was being befooled. It was very irritating that 
Mr. Bryant should be ridiculed at all ; worse tha^ 
he should lay himself open in this way to ridicule : 
mortifying to the young man's vanity that Mr. Kane 
should detect in two minutes the clergyman's weak 
side, which was only now becoming undoubtedly 
apparent to the nephew. Vincent caught himself 
wishing that he had followed precedents and replaced 
Cousin Septimius by Cousin Augustine, of the ex- 
pectations and the priggish disposition. 

But the solemn talk about Chrysostom and 
Archbishop Leighton went on till Mr. Bryant, having 
to hurry away and being flattered into a state of 
intoxication, invited Mr. Kane to dinner, that so the 
interrupted conversation might have conclusion ; 
and Vincent could hardly restrain himself when the 



lOO MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

invitation was accepted. He pictured poor Mrs. 
Bryant under the visitor's sarcasm, and could have 
kicked the clergyman for exposing her to it. 

Mr. Bryant, however, went home in high good 
humour, and expatiated so much on the honourable 
gentleman's affability and pedigree, that Georgina 
tossed her head and said pettishly, ' Dear me, papa ! 
you seem to think I don't know who anybody is.' 
Nevertheless the young lady was pleased to think 
Mr. Kane was coming to dinner, and she resolved to 
captivate him. He might be useful with Vincent. 

' I will wear blue muslin,' she reflected, ' for 
sweet simplicity is what pleases elderly men. Boys 
prefer satin and Venetian point. At Sir Vincent's 
age it seems that stuff petticoats and thick shoes 
are the attraction. I wish papa had told me what 
he was going to do with that minx.' For Georgina 
quite recognised her father's difficulty. Nannie 
must be suppressed quietly. If Vincent's name got 
mixed up in a scandal, no virtuous clergyman could 
favour him as an immediate candidate for his 
daughter ; and there was the risk too of offending 
the erring gentleman himself by direct action. 
' The idea of his preferring red hair ! ' said Miss 
Bryant in great wrath, as she petted her brown 
plaits lovingly. ' But how silly he is ! He may 
have all the red hair and all the stuff petticoats in 
the world for aught I care, if he doesn't put the 



THE TURN OF THE TIDE loi 

creatures out of their place. I have read the Bible. 
The moment Hagar got into Sarah's way she was 
turned out ; that is what I must see done to this 
horrid little Hagar. I am really in love with 
Vincent, I believe. If I had to choose between 
him and some notable prince, I fancy I should stick 
to Vincent ; always provided I was certain of getting 
him. If he goes flourishing Hagar in this way 
before my very eyes, he mustn't be surprised if I 
accept the first eligible offer that turns up. But in 
this hole of a place there is no one to make an offer. 
This Mr. Kane? He is no good; he has no money; 
I am certain aunt told me he had a wife — black, I 
suppose — and a nest of fledglings somewhere in 
the States. Je n'aime pas ga du tout, clu tout, du 
tout. But he may be of use to me with Vincent. 
I see clearly I must be civil.' So she sewed fresh 
ribbons on the blue muslin, smiling and feeling- 
equal to conquering all the men in the world. She 
had a firm belief in herself, and always fancied 
Helen, Cleopatra, and all other irresistible women 
must have had just her face, her voice, her charming 
manner, and false smile. 

Half an hour before the aristocratic guest was ex- 
pected, Georgina contrived to reduce her stepmother 
to tears ; by Georgina's advice Mrs. Bryant had 
arrayed herself in her second best gown, and the 
young lady now expressed astonishment to find it was 



102 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

a rather soiled yellow satin carved out with black 
lace. ' It is not becoming/ said the girl, staring 
mercilessly ; and after the flood of tears alluded 
to, which was very provoking to Mr. Bryant, dis- 
turbed already by his wife's apparel, Greorgina said 
with mock sympathy — 

' Now, papa, I think it is cruel to make Mrs. 
Bryant come down to-night. She really looks too 
ill to appear.' 

' Kind little girl ! ' said the clergyman, relieved. 
' Do what you like, my dear Emma ; ' and he kissed 
her, lest she should be hurt by her dismissal. She 
was by the manner of it ; for Georgie had explained 
to her that in the language of the world ' How ill 
you look ! ' always means ' How ugly ! ' 



CHAPTEE III 

Mr. Kane, malicious and fond of comedy, had ac- 
cepted the clergyman's invitation not from any wish 
to study theology, but because on Sunday he had 
recognised Mr. Bryant's face, and, after some racking 
of his brains, had recalled to mind a smart lad in 
an apron behind a grocer's counter in a country 
town many years ago. 

'Your parson seems a good man,' Mr. Kane 



THE TURN OF THE TIDE 103 

remarked to Lady Katharine on the way home ; 
' one of the Norfolk Bryants ? ' 

' Yes, I believe so,' said the widow ; ' but oh, 
Frederick, it is so unfortunate — he has a very curious 

wife ; it makes such an awkwardness ' And then 

she went on to praise Georgina with pointed effusion. 

'The parson's must be a singular household,' 
observed Mr. Kane, drily. ' I didn't know I should 
find a comedy theatre here. Vincent has, I see, 
a fine understanding of the needs of life. Hallo! 
there goes the beauty with the red hair. She runs 
Miss Bryant hard. Is that showy girl with her a 
sister ? Another beauty, I declare. Katharine, 
have you studied history ? ' 
' History ? ' 

' Such a work as Gibbon's Decline and Fall ? 
You will learn from it that when a young prince 
surrounded himself with comedians and beauties, he 
was in a dangerous position.' Lady Katharine 
smiled, without understanding her playful brother's 
joke. ' I should dismiss Miss Bryant at any rate,' 
he whispered, glancing at his nephew ; ' your dear 
boy will get on better without such very handsome 
young women worshipping him. There is a hint 
for you, my sister,' said Mr. Kane. And he went 
to dine with the parson to spy out the land. 

A very pleasant dinner it proved, the vulgar 
wife being out of the way. The conversation was 



104 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

brilliant, and the young lady a model of grace. Mr. 
Kane was much at his ease, having a liking for 
handsome women ; indeed, under favourable circum- 
stances he might have fallen in love with Georgina 
himself. 

' The child's easy, perfect manner is delightful,' 
said Mr. Bryant, in a frenzy of delight, having run 
up after dinner to see his wife. 

' I like girls a bit more distant,' said Mrs. 
Bryant, tired of Georgina's praises. 

But after the handsome daughter had retired Mr. 
Kane lingered for half an hour with the clergyman ; 
and felt the time had come to put out his claws. He 
would unmask the pretentious fool. With a man like 
Mr. Bryant any degree of rudeness was justifiable. 

Mr. Kane began by admiring Georgina. ' Did I 
hear a rumour,' he said, lazily watching his smoke 
(Mr. Bryant hated smoke, but was willing to sacrifice 
himself for any one connected with the nobility), 
' that she and my nephew were engaged ?' 

The clergyman's proud heart beat, but he had 
modestly to deny the report. There had certainly 

been a passage between the young people, but 

Mr. Kane sat up straight and defied his host. ' Oh, 
Vincent has drawn back, has he ? I suppose he 
had become aware ' 

' Of what, sir ?' asked the clergyman with out- 
ward calm, but noting the change of manner, and 



THE TURN OF THE TIDE 105 

sitting up in his turn. Mr. Kane laughed dis- 
agreeably and did not reply at once. Mr, Bryant 
felt himself crimsoning without knowing what to 
expect. 

'When did you leave Karley-le- Street, Mr. 
Bryant?' asked the guest; and so plainly did the 
name of the country town mean ' grocer's shop ' that 
the clergyman believed the offensive epithet had 
been actually used. A slap on the face could not 
have disconcerted him more thoroughly. For once 
he had no reply ready, and Mr. Kane chuckled with 
delight. 

' I had no idea it was a secret,' he continued ; 
' pray don't be alarmed. I will not betray you. 
But I remembered your face so well. Had my 
nephew some other reason then for drawing ' 

' The drawing back, sir,' interrupted the clergy- 
man, with dignity, 'has been on Miss Bryant's side. 
I should require to know Sir Vincent's character 
better before I could entertain his proposals for my 
daughter. He may not be her equal in worth 
though her superior in position.' 

This was all very well ; still Mr. Kane, seeing 
the man he had to do with, pushed his point. ' I 
should be sorry,' he said, ' by my accidental recog- 
nition to make your position here disagreeable.' 

Mr. Bryant reversed his tactics. The man was 
odious. 



io5 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

'You mistake me, Mr. Kane. Sir Vincent is 
welcome to know the whole history of my family. 
Has he not told you that my wife's brother, Mr. 
Eandle, is farming in this place ? ' 

'Did you say Eandle ?' asked Mr. Kane. The 
clergyman, absorbed in restoring his own shattered 
dignity, did not notice if his guest now seemed 
curiously interested, perhaps startled. Mr. Kane did 
not finish his cigar. After all that plain speaking 
they could not fall back into compliment or theology. 
Mr. Bryant thought he seemed almost a little 
flurried at his departure. 

After turning that bit of talk round and round 
in his mind, the vicar of Ever well came to the con- 
clusion that it had been not only humiliating but 
menacing. The foreseen opposition to the marriage 
on the part of Sir Vincent's relations had begun. 

He talked it over rather explosively with his 
wife ; who felt in arms against all the ladies and 
gentlemen in the neighbourhood, and especially 
against this Mr. Kane, supposed too fine to sit at 
table with her. 

' What I want to know, Emma, is how he has 
learnt so much about me .' I never saw or heard 
of the man before. Now, did you V 

' I hear of Lady Katharine's brother ? I never 
knew she had one.' 

' I shall ask Ben.' 



THE TURN OF THE TIDE 107 

'Oh dear, what does it matter?' cried Emma, 
peevishly. 

' He seemed to have heard of Ben. I wish you 
would think, my dear.' 

'I always told you, Ned, that some one was 
sure to mention the shop some day,' said Emma. 
' There was no good in hiding it.' 

' I have never hidden it !' said Mr. Bryant, 
angrily. ' You are very testy about Mr. Kane, my 
dear.' 

'You lived a deal nearer Lord Henslow's than 
we did, Ned. Ben, nor I, nor none of us knew 
anything of the family, except Lady Katharine, be- 
cause she married Sir Charles. Oh dear, Ned, I do 
think if you'd had any sense, you'd never have come 
to this place, to mix me up with grand folk I had 
seen as a girl.' 

' I believe you are right there, my love. Well, 
we must go away as soon as we can ; but we can't 
go till we have a home somewhere else ; and till — 

till ' He was referring to Georgina's marriage 

of course. ' Mr. Kane is inclined to be antagonistic,' 
he said, musingly. 

' Oh do, for goodness sake, stop about Mr. Kane !' 
cried Emma ; ' you have gone quite crazy, Ned, about 
grand people.' 

He felt rebuked, and was silent. Emma's un- 
willingness to discuss the visitor had, however, 



.io8 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

annoyed him, and he imagined a hundred complicated 
reasons to account for it. 



CHAPTEE lY 

Theee are not many well-conducted houses in the 
United Kingdom where Sunday is a thoroughly 
comfortable day ; for great survival of Puritanism 
dogs the serious of all persuasions like a shadow. 

Of course to clergymen and others who have 
taken up religion as a profession, Sunday is a feast 
of grinding labour ; to preach three, or even two, 
sermons within twelve hours is no joke. Nor is the 
seventh a day of rest to the clergyman's daughter. 
Such an one I have known : a slim girl of eighteen, 
who goes fasting to early communion ; returns three 
quarters of a mile for a hasty breakfast ; then 
teaches, as she calls it, some fifteen inattentive 
Sunday scholars, who have come to school as a 
favour. She has time to swallow a jujube before 
church, where she plays the organ and leads the 
singing, and tries to stay awake during her father's 
sermon lest he should catechise her about it at the 
hasty dinner which follows the return home ; then 
comes another Sunday school, longer and hotter and 
noisier than the morning one, after which Isabel has 



THE TURN OF THE TIDE 109 

charge of her little brothers and sisters in the school- 
room for two hours, to relieve the governess. And 
then there is church again at half-past six ; and 
after church, her father being a very zealous clergy- 
man, there is hymn-singing or other religious dissi- 
pation in the parish room, at which Isabel has the 
harmonium of course, and the general superintend- 
ence of flaring and odorous paraffin lamps, w^et 
umbrellas and greasy hats, of old men who fall 
asleep and by their snores introduce the ridiculous, 
youths who paraphrase the words of the hymns 
and ogle the girls, while these latter giggle and lean 
across each other to whisper that Miss Isabel has a 
new bonnet and Jim Smith is cultivating whiskers. 
At last Isabel gets home to supper, and papa has 
brought the curate with him, who is good and nice 
and rather in love with Isabel, but who is not 
brilliant, and whose idea of conversation is that 
she shall find all the subjects, make all the 
jests, and ad\dse him wdiat to read at the next 
Temperance meeting. Papa kisses his darling when 
she goes to bed, and hopes she has had a happy day, 
and Isabel says dutifully Yes ; but bursts into tears 
as she reads her chapter at night in the solitude 
of her very chilly bedroom, feeling keenly in her 
physically weakened condition that she is an un- 
profitable servant much threatened by the prophet 
Isaiah. Such things I have seen, and in more than 



no MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

one English parsonage ; but it is needless to remark 
not at Everwell, for Georgina Bryant was not 
made on the pattern of my gentle and dutiful 
Isabel. 

Many people there are too who do not work so 
desperately hard, and who yet feel rather low-spirited 
and weary by the time for bed. Lady Katharine 
Leicester, for instance, though she would not have 
said so for the world, never found a straight-backed 
pew, with its sitting board covered by a thin carpet, 
at all the same as the nice arm-chair in which she 
reposed in her drawing-room. But she always went 
twice to church, because she got tired of reading 
sermons or making Sunday talk at home. And 
though she attempted no positive interference with 
her son's pursuits, she indulged him sadly, and 
always wanted him to be doing something else 
' when the servants came in.' Vincent laughed at 
her and took his own way of course, but the un- 
spoken disapproval bored him, and he liked to get 
out of the house on Sunday, in his little boat alone 
on the dancing waves, or far away over the moors 
on his good steed, Pegasus. 

' How pretty he is ! ' said Nannie, one August 
evening, timidly touching the fiery nostrils as Vin- 
cent drew bridle to speak to Mr. Eandle, who with 
his large family, and Alick his nephew, was sunning 
himself and feeling important in his Sunday best. 



THE TURN OF THE TIDE in 

Vincent had been staying with his grandfather for a 
week, and it was ten days since he had even seen 
Nannie. 

' Were you ever on a horse ? ' he asked her. 

' Oh yes ! I used to climb up on the colts and 
ride them about the fields ! But I should have 
been frightened if they had stamped and snorted like 
this one.' 

Alick got a vision then of a picture he remem- 
bered long ago : a field with a low hedge and a few 
pollarded oaks, in one corner a little pond reflect- 
ing the sunset ; and the white, s]3irit-like figure of 
a slim child seated erect on a dark, bare-backed 
galloping thing, long-legged, awkward, half- fright- 
ened ; the girl with white arms clutching the mane, 
slender ankles pressed to the panting sides, her hair 
streaming on the wind, her eyes gleaming, and her 
lips half open to drink in the flying breeze. And 
he turned and frowned strangely at the decorous 
maiden by his side, Bible in hand and all her 
wealth of rich locks softly coiled up and nearly 
hidden under her Sunday bonnet. But she smiled 
at her dear lover, and Vincent smiled too. He was 
thinking he would like to pick Nannie up and 
gallop away with her in the summer sunshine. 
Her afternoon's destiny was different. 

Later, Vincent, returning from his ride and 
picking his way cautiously over the flat rocks 



1 1 2 MR. BR YANT 'S MIS TAKE 

deserted by the tide, came upon a group of the 
fisher folk assembled here on the beach, with 
Alick in their midst and Nannie beside him holding 
his arm. They were singing one of the sweetest of 
all modern hymns, and the Everwell voices, un- 
accompanied save by the lapping of the little waves, 
were rich and true, the words falling quite clear 
and distinct from Alick's lips as he led the song. 
Vincent paused to listen, not liking his Nannie 
standing up there so importantly with the crazy 

prophet. 

My Father's house on high, 

Home of my soul, how near 
At times to faith's far-seeing eye 

Thy golden gates appear ! 
Here in the body pent, 

Absent from Him I roam, 
Yet nightly pitch my moving tent, 

A day's march nearer home. 
Nearer home ! A day's march nearer home. 

The meeting broke up after this, but the people, 
all quiet and orderly, lingered round Alick ; and 
Nannie, the little Mary Anne clinging to her gown, 
stole aside to say a word to her lover. 

' Have you come through the village, sir ? 
Don't you think it is very different from what it 
was that Sunday last year when Alick took you 
round ? It is all his doing ! ' she said, proudly, 
just as long ago she had talked of his drawings. 



THE TURN OF THE TIDE 113 

Vincent had indeed been struck by the changed 
aspect of the many once brutal faces ; but he 
admitted the improvement grudgingly. He had 
grown to loathe speaking to Nannie with this public 
indifference, when even a moment's solitude meant 
kisses and her dear hand clasped in his and pressed 
to his heart. As he rode he had been saying 
to himself, ' I cannot and will not go on with it. 
It is derogatory to lur. While I loved her just a 
little, it was possible — pleasant ; now it is torture ; 
it is wrong — it is unendurable.' This suppressed 
emotion made his aspect sombre ; and at Nannie's 
words new cause of offence arose. Why did she 
praise Alick in this way to him ? 

' Don't you get tired of the psalm - singing, 
Nannie ? ' he asked, abruptly. 

' Sometimes,' replied the girl, ' but I know I am 
wrong.' 

' Why ? ' 

* Because,' she answered, colouring nervously, 
"■ religion is the chief thing ; and it is right to — to 
pray.' Vincent took her up sharply. 

' Eeligion is only the sum total of our daily lives ; 
and prayer, Nannie, is no more than the cry of the 
soul.' She looked up with her quick perception 
and sympathy, but made no answer. And she re- 
joined her cousin, feeling conspicuous standing there 
with her sweetheart. Vincent's idea of conspicuous- 
VOL. II • • 27 



114 MR, BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

ness was different, and his heart beat with annoy- 
ance as she left him. He had not known that she 
was connecting herself with Alick in this public 
way; and when he had seen her last she had been 
playfully unwilling to be catechised as to her 
management of the rejected and pertinacious ad- 
mirer ; and he had gone away smiling, and telling 
himself that, like all other women, she was a 
desperate little coquette. But Vincent did not 
smile to-night. Good Heavens ! if his fears were 
to be realised and she were after all to slip away 
from him ! 

Vincent lingered, his horse's bridle over his arm 
and his air that of one wanting to pick a quarrel with 
some one. ' Why weren't you gathered in the school- 
house this afternoon, Alick ? ' he asked, for some- 
thing to say. Unwittingly he had touched upon a 
sore subject, and the prophet's aspect of heavenly 
exaltation suddenly vanished. He answered ex- 
citedly — 

' Sir, the door was shut. The parson has turned 
against me and would have me speak to the people 
no more. And,' he cried, his eye flashing, ' yon 
heathen parson had put a purple table-cover on the 
church's holy table, and flowers and candles, as they 
have in the popish chapel by Tanswick. I took 
them away last night, but I doubt, sir, it's the 
beginning of the end.' 



THE TURN OF THE TIDE 115 

' How do you mean you took them away ? ' asked 
Vincent. 

' I was bidden to do it, sir,' shouted Alick ; ' if 
there is heathendom in Everwell, the Lord's hand 
will be turned away from us.' 

' You will go at once, if you please, and put the 
things, whatever they are, back in their places.' 

* No, sir ; I threw them in the sea,' said Alick. 
Vincent surveyed him in astonishment, for this was 
the prophet in quite a new aspect. 

' You did ? ' 

' I will serve God rather than man,' said 
Alick. 

' Don't be angry with him,' whispered Nannie, 
softly, and Vincent flashed an impatient look at her, 
the first she had ever had from him. AVhat did 
she mean by setting herself on Alick's side in this 
way ? The man seemed, under his present aspect, 
as distorted, as repulsive, as the uncompromis- 
ing dissenter has generally appeared to the child 
of the world, ever since the days of Eoundhead and 
Cavalier when the dissenters for once got the upper 
hand and contrived to disgust the nation for the 
remainder of time. 

' Your presumption is intolerable, man,' said Vin- 
cent angrily ; ' probably it is the beginning of the end 
— the end of your career as preacher. If you set 
yourself in opposition to Mr. Bryant, I shall look 



Ii6 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

out means of stopping your mouth. You may 
expect that.' 

'You have no power over me, sir/ said Alick, 
planting himself defiantly before the gentleman. 

It is easy to suppress a man guilty of robbery 
and sacrilege, whatever his pretext/ said Vincent, 
stepping back, as if offended by Alick's proximity. 

•'The sacrilege was in him who put the popish 
idols in God's house. I will pay you the worldly 
value of the table-cloth and the candles, so it ain't 
robbery.' 

'Thank you. Your tone is insolent, Alick.' 
They eyed each other for a moment. 

' Nannie, let me say a word to you/ said Vincent. 
The authoritative tone roused Alick still more. 

' What have you got to say to my Nannie ? ' he 
said, throwing himself between them. Vincent 
turned round and stared at him. His Nannie 
indeed ! 

' Hands off, my good fellow, if you please. 
Come here, Nannie.' The girl, who had turned 
very pale, obeyed. 

Alick had a choking sensation as if he were 
going to be possessed by a devil again, as when Mrs. 
Bryant had maddened him. But he fought it off, 
or at least its outward gesture. Vincent, however, 
saw the lightning of sudden fury in his eye, 
and the fit of trembling which shook his meagre 



THE TURN OF THE TIDE 117 

figure. He kept his eye on the fanatic as he said, 
clearly and rather loud, for he wished Alick to hear, 
' You must give him to understand, Xannie, that 
this kind of thing is altogether improper, and I will 
not have it repeated. Mr. Bryant is not to be in- 
sulted and the religion he and Alick both profess 
rendered ridiculous.' 

Alick turned suddenly and walked away along 
the rocks towards Tanswick, and Xannie watched 
him with a distressed and frightened look. But 
that little impatience Vincent had exliibited a few 
minutes ago had agitated her. 

' Are you angry with me ? ' whispered JSTannie, 
looking up at her lover on the tall horse ; and if 
they had been alone forgiveness would soon have 
invaded his suspicion. But he only said, 

' I am angry with Alick ; you best know, Nannie, 
whether I have cause to be angry with you or not.' 
And he rode away, without another glance at her, 
for several eyes were on them, including those of 
Xannie's brother, and Vincent was afraid for her 
sake to provoke criticism. 

' I knew how it would be,' he muttered to him- 
self, lashing his horse ; ' women like that kind of 
psalm-singing humbug. I must put a stop to this, 
or we shall be getting into trouble.' 



1 1 8 MR. BR YANT 'S MIST A KE 



CHAPTEK y 



Nannie left Joe abruptly and made her way home 
alone. There were tears in her eyes, for she felt 
her dear lover was displeased. Yet on this occasion 
her sympathies were with her cousin, for the fanati- 
cism which seemed so ridiculous to the gentleman 
was perfectly comprehensible to her, and she knew 
how little vanity, how much moral courage, there 
was in Alick's deluded soul. Alas ! Vincent was 
justified in believing that Alick's prayings and ser- 
monisings were influencing the girl. There was a 
persuasiveness about the man in these exercises which 
every one felt, and which was sometimes irresistible 
to the sensitive young creature too ignorant to dis- 
cern the point at which he erred. How was she to 
make people understand that Alick was of import- 
ance to her not as a lover but as a spiritual director ? 
For neither Nannie nor Alick understood, as indeed 
few priests and good women of any persuasion do, 
that ' in the mixing up of things lies the great Bad ' ; 
whereas the ordinary man feels it instinctively, and 
even when there is no suggestion whatever of love- 
making, cannot forgive his women for running after 
Jesuits and evangelists, zealous curates, and sweet 
preachers. Nannie went sadly home, fearing that 



THE TURN OF THE TIDE 119 

her lovers were likely to quarrel. In a combat 
Vincent would inevitably be victorious. Will you 
believe that Nannie could not imagine that event 
with satisfaction ? She did not want manifesta- 
tion of his strength against Alick. Alick was 
dear to her faithful heart from early association : 
and when she thought, as she often did, of his 
' beautiful soul,' and believed him nearer heaven 
than the man she loved, Nannie felt that a contest 
in which her cousin should be crushed would not 
exactly endear to her the victor. 

Meanwhile Alick in his flight was suffering 
more acutely than Nannie. A few days ago he 
had been smitten down with one of his bad head- 
aches, and since then he had not only felt ill, 
but his serenity and loftiness of mien had given 
way a little. He had become feverish in his manner, 
fussy in his work, less authoritative in his tone. 
Moreover, the Christian graces of charity, forbear- 
ance, and gentleness, which he had so successfully 
cultivated, became all at once most extraordinarily 
difficult. Alick felt sinful and unhappy ; then he 
took to self-ordained penances of the old monkish 
sort, — eccentricities which, described to Vincent on 
his return by old John Price, the prophet's devout 
admirer, had filled the worldly young gentleman with 
amazed and suspicious repulsion. In spite of the 
penances Alick felt sinful still. And now on this 



120 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

Sunday afternoon, after preaching very fervently but 
with much weariness of body ; after talking ex- 
citedly with Sir Vincent about the lying parson and 
then losing his temper upon hearing his rival address 
a single and quite harmless sentence to Nannie, Alick 
again arrived at the painful conclusion, which once 
before had for an hour nearly broken his heart, — 
that he was possessed by a devil. Good God ! what 
a position ! A prophet like Isaiah and Ezekiel, but 
possessed by a devil ! possessed by a devil, like the 
man who wandered among the tombs, cutting himself 
and allowing no one to tame him ! ' Heaven have 
mercy upon my soul !' groaned the unhappy prophet. 
It was Sunday, and Alick had no work ; his 
trade had been laid aside, and he had long 
grown too pious to waste time over pictures. 
Yet pictures haunted him still — pictures which 
were not steady to his eyes, but were evermore 
changing like dissolving views and running into each 
other like things in dreams. This afternoon he was 
bothered by that picture of the child ISTannie on the 
bare-backed colt in the field at Faverton. But every 
now and then the colt stopped short, and the girl 
fell — surely he heard her shriek ? — into the little 
pond which reflected the golden sky. There was a 
splash and the ripple went round and round like a 
whirlpool ; and then a white figure rose to the 
water's surface and floated there, the colt stretching 



THE TURN OF THE TIDE 121 

out his neck and looking at the strange thing with 
innocent awe. ' It would make two pictures/ 
thought Alick, and began tracing the outline with 
his finger on the sand. But he found, to his horror, 
that he was drawing something altogether different ; 
and he remembered presently that it was impious 
work, not to be thought of on the Sabbath. ' Prayer 
and fasting ! ' he groaned in remorse for the evil 
impulse, and hid himself in a nook of the deserted 
shore, his Bible in his hand, but his thoughts stUl 
wandering and sad. Once he looked up and 
fancied he saw Sir Vincent there, half undressed, as 
if he had been bathing, his dog leaping at his hand. 
But it passed from his eyes and he did not think of 
it again. That white figure floating on the pond at 
Faverton would not pass. Was Alick dreaming or 
awake ? He could not tell. A horrible sensation 
came over him that he had murdered the girl and 
thrown her into the water ; and now somehow the 
pond had changed into the Everwell sea, and he felt 
with sickening horror that he had flung the child 
over the precipice near Dr. Verrill's house and had 
drowned her there. After a moment Alick recog- 
nised that he had done nothing of the kind, and that 
it was all a passing fancy. What were these hate- 
ful fancies that came to him nowadays ? Surely he 
was possessed by a devil ! He did not feel well this 
afternoon ; perhaps he was getting one of his familiar 



122 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

and salutary brain fevers. He would go and see Dr. 
Yerrill, who knew his constitution and would pre- 
scribe some simple diet to set him to rights. Alick 
set forth slowly up the cliff by the narrow precipice 
path to the doctor's cottage. As he was entering 
the garden, with its strange odour of unwonted 
herbs, the bells began to ring from the church, and 
the familiar sound seemed to exorcise the demon 
that had tormented Alick. He paused, leaning on 
the little gate. What on earth was he going to the 
doctor for ? 

Just then the little philosopher and his sister 
emerged from the house, dressed for evening church. 
Dr. Yerrill looked very funny all in black, with a 
tall hat, his long red hair brushed perfectly smooth 
and his week's beard shaved. Miss Verrill looked 
funnier still in a very small felt hat and a white 
tulle veil, a coat like her brother's, and a silk skirt, 
held up with both hands and still frequently tripped 
over. ' Why, Alick, my man,' said the doctor, ' you 
are a stranger to us. Have you been at the Farm V 

Alick made a cheerful and perfectly untrue 
statement about himself and Nannie, his one idea 
being to prevent the doctor from suspecting that 
ecstasy of his on the seashore, and that he had 
half fancied himself taking an illness ; he did not 
notice or did not care that he was lying. 

' I cannot see what all you young men and young 



THE TURN OF THE TIDE 123 

women want to be marrying for/ grumbled Dr. 
Verrill ; ' the mind never grows after marriage.' 
And his sister added — 

' I am glad you and Nannie will be united, Alick. 
Though in my judgment a woman is superior single, 
I consider a man without a definite female to look 
after him such a poor creature, that I could not 
desire the fate for any favourite of mine.' 

Alick smiled his thanks for these congratulations 
on his reputed engagement to pretty Nannie ; but the 
doctor suddenly felt his pulse, and thrust a clinical 
thermometer under his tongue with a frown, and a 
recommendation of a brown bread steak and a pease 
pudding. 

' I am very thankful to God, sir,' said the invol- 
untary patient, mildly, ' that I get my health so 
much better than I did.' 



CHAPTEK YI 

Me. Bryant, being rather afraid of Alick, had 
thought it best to take small notice of the fanatic's 
onslaught upon his altar-cloth, candles, and flower 
vases. 

' Ah, poor foolish fellow ! ' said the clergyman, 
' one respects his courage ! And we have got a new 



124 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

altar-cloth from Helbronner's. Georgie and I have 
just put it up. I didn't irritate him by producing 
it this morning without explanation, but he doesn't 
attend the evening service.' 

'You don't take Alick seriously enough,' said 
Vincent, still sombre in his mood. And a little 
later, having seen the prophet after all join the 
evening congregation, he went to church himself, 
anxious, like every one else, to see what Alick was 
' going to do.' 

The vicar was in the act of pronouncing the 
final blessing after his sermon that evening when 
Alick Eandle, very pale and very resolute, rose quite 
suddenly in his pew; and said in that clear, forcible 
voice of his, which was not loud, yet which always 
commanded attention, ' The Lord has sent a message 
to this people to-night by me ! ' Nannie uttered a 
little cry and half rose too, looking appealingly at 
Sir Vincent, and Mr. Bryant lost his head and did 
not proceed with his valediction for a distinct 
interval. No one heeded him ; all eyes were fixed 
upon Alick. Sir Vincent now left his pew, and 
with firm step, purposely rather noisy, he walked 
down the aisle to the prophet. 

' Brawling in church is illegal,' he said distinctly. 
All the people were standing up now, peeping over 
the tall pew-sides at the two men. Vincent stood 
with his arms folded and his eye fixed on the 



THE TURN OF THE TIDE 125 

fanatic, i'or a moment it seemed as if Alick were 
going to dispute his authority, then he suddenly 
quailed, almost collapsed, swaying as he stood and 
clutching Xannie's arm for support. Mr. Bryant 
had come to by this time and accomplished his 
benediction ; then the organ played rather hysteri- 
cally and the congregation moved, Vincent waving 
them out with an impatient .gesture. The building 
was quickly emptied, except for the shuddering Alick 
Eandle and Sir Vincent, who was guarding him; 
Nannie, who was holding her cousin's limp and 
frozen hand ; and Dr. Verrill, who was measuring 
out his shock mixture. ' Not that tomfoolery now,' 
said Vincent, with more force than politeness. 

' Come now, Alick, we will go home,' said the 
gentleman, touching his prisoner's arm, a sense of 
pity having sprung up in his heart for the mis- 
guided sufferer. Alick obediently staggered to his 
feet and stepped forward, leaning on Vincent and 
still holding Nannie's hand. ' Oh, he is ill ! ' 
murmured the girl. 

But the whole congregation was waiting patiently 
outside. Vincent felt annoyed ; especially when 
Alick, perceiving the crowd, hesitated, then raised 
his head and looked round with a scared and 
bewildered air, as if he were trying to recollect what 
was going on. 

' Nannie,' whispered Vincent, ' go to your father 



126 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

there, and bid him from me to disperse these people. 
Come, Alick.' 

But the prophet had checked his feet ; vigour 
was returning to his frame and fire to his eye. 
Before Nannie could move he had surveyed the 
throng, and had raised his hand commandingly. A 
thrill of expectation ran through the spectators. 

Mr. Bryant appeared now from the vestry, with 
his benignity and superficial remedies. ' You have 
something to say, my good Alick ? Allow him to 
speak, Sir Vincent, if he wishes it. We are out of 
church now.' 

' Alick,' said Vincent, ' take my advice and come 
away.' Alick looked at him for a moment with a 
pitiful hesitation, and Vincent felt somehow increas- 
ingly sorry for him. But then the prophet dropped 
the friendly arm, drew himself up, and with a calm 
and an assurance doubly impressive after his previous 
agitated weakness, he remounted the church steps, 
and standing there above the audience he spoke quite 
fluently and with resistless command in his tones — 

' I CHAEGE YOU ALL, IN THE NAME OF THE LORD, 
THAT YE LISTEN UNTO THE WORD WHICH HE HAS SENT 

YOU BY ME. It is a bidding from the Lord that we 
put away an evil thing and an evil man from among 
us, lest He bring judgment upon us in anger and 
in fury and in furious rebukes. The Lord has 
spoken it.' 



THE TURN OF THE TIDE 127 

Mr. Bryant stood in an easy attitude with a 
snule on his pleasant face ; but as a matter of fact 
he was sick with a horrible dread. There were only 
about forty persons present, and these for the most 
part friendly to himself, and the speaker was a mere 
ignorant and presumptuous fanatic. That was one 
aspect of the situation, and the smile was assumed 
in conformity to it. But still the fanatic had that 
thrilling voice, and had he been as truly inspired as 
he believed himself to be, he could not have looked 
his part better. Mr. Bryant, having an uneasy con- 
science, could no more resist the impression of the 
speaker's authority than could little Miss Yerrill, 
who was sobbing like a child, or stout Farmer 
Eandle, who had not heard his nephew preach be- 
fore, and was now watching him so attentively that 
he never saw Nannie convulsively clutch at Sir 
Vincent Leicester's hand, — surely an unseemly action 
on the part of a modest country maiden. 

' For many days,' said the prophet, ' the hand of 
the Lord has been heavy upon me. He has given 
me neither sleep, nor rest, nor meat. At His com- 
mand I have left my bed nightly, and have watched 
the rising and the setting of the stars, signs to us 
of the power and the bidding of God. And I have 
seen a star leave his place in the heavens and fall 
into destruction in the sea ; even as Lucifer, son of 
the morning, was cast from his place ; as we shall 



128 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

all be cast forth who resist the authority and the 
might of our Maker. And I have heard the voice 
of the Lord upon many waters, and have seen the 
waves arise and roar and bend and break under His 
wrath ; when the foam is caught up against the 
blackness of the night clouds, and the deeps are 
stirred by evil angels doing the will of the God they 
hate. And I saw then the great power of the 
Lord, and knew that if He willed it so, His storm 
could crumble this cliff upon which we stand and 
sweep the church which yon wicked man has pro- 
faned into His destroying waves, until the day 
when there shall be no more sea. And this the 
Lord will do, even here in Everwell, unless ye 
REPENT.' And so on, followed by biblical thunders 
against the lying and the foolish prophet, who 
said ' the Lord saith ' when the Lord had not 
spoken. 

Vincent turned to Mr. Bryant. 'Hadn't you 
better make some sort of reply ? ' he said ; ' these 
stupid folk don't understand that the man is simply 
insane.' 

But Mr. Bryant also was cowering and speech- 
less. Vincent shrugged his shoulders ; then tapped 
the now kneeling Alick on the shoulder. 

' My dear fellow,' he said, ' you are very eloquent, 
but eloquence is confusing to plain people. Will 
you state in simple words what has offended you ? ' 



THE TURN OF THE TIDE 129 

' It's the altar-cloth/ interposed the clergyman, 
hastily ; ' our poor friend thinks it popish.' 

' Is that so, Alick ? ' But the prophet's frenzy 
had passed ; he looked up with an expression so 
far from formidable that again pity for him com- 
plicated Vincent's action. 

'We will take it away for the present,' con- 
tinued the clergyman, ' and next Sunday I will 
preach on the subject and explain.' 

' Let us have the sermon by all means/ said 
Vincent, ' but I think, sir, you will be mistaken if 
you make any change in your arrangements under 
pressure of this kind/ Then raising his voice and 
addressing the agitated throng, he continued : ' The 
time has come, my friends, when I must give you 
my opinion of this movement there has been among 
you. While Alick Eandle's object was to promote 
order and decency among us, and his denunciations 
were against crime and vice, nobody wished to 
hinder him, and it seemed ungracious to expose his 
fallacies. But now that he is making war upon 
mere church furniture, it is evident that he has 
wandered away from essential religion and spiritual 
importance. A\Tien he delivers a " message " about 
such trifles I am altogether a disbeliever in its 
divine authority. As to the imagined supernatural 
evidences of Ahck's commission, Mr. Bryant, Dr. 
Verrill, I myself, any one who has studied such 
VOL. II 28 



I30 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

manifestations by the light of reason and experience, 
knows that they are to be accounted for by natural 
laws, which have no more special meaning nor moral 
reference than has the falling of a meteor which 
may be seen any autumn evening, or the rising of a 
storm at sea. Alick Eandle is a friend of mine, 
for whom I entertain a great respect ; I should be 
sorry to call him an impostor, but I do say, most 
distinctly, that he is deluded. I do not believe him 
an extraordinary messenger from heaven ; and when 
he proposes what I consider folly, I shall oppose 
him ; when he transgresses against our ordinary 
rules for the wellbeing of society, I shall treat him 
with no more leniency than is the right of any other 
person.' 

These utterances had some effect in restoring 
composure to the audience, chiefly perhaps through 
Alick himself, who had risen and was apparently 
restored to the demeanour of an ordinary mortal. 
The throng soon dispersed, Alick walking away 
alone with a firm step. At a little distance he was 
joined by Xannie. 



CHAPTEE YII 

' Deae me, Mrs. Bryant ! ' exclaimed Georgina, ' have 
you seen a ghost, or what is the matter with you V 



THE TURN OF THE TIDE 131 

Neither of the ladies had been that evening at 
church. The vicar's wife, too restless and troubled 
to take pleasure at present in her husband's preach- 
ing, had been out for a short stroll by herself. 
But no sooner had she crossed the threshold on her 
return than she sank fainting on her stepdaughter's 
arm. Georgina rang for the under-housemaid, who 
was the only servant at home. Susan was one who 
dearly loved a tragedy. 

' Miss,' she said, clasping her hands as she had 
seen Alick, the preacher, do, ' the missus is going to 
die of the typhus. My grandmother's illness begun 
just so.' 

' Then don't touch her,' said Georgina, ' and don't 
scream in that senseless way. Go and fetch the doctor.' 

' Alick Eandle, the holy man, is passing, miss. 
I will call him in. His prayers made my grand- 
mother go off easy.' Georgina was not listening ; 
she was hoping Emma might die, and trying to 
recall all her knowledge about infection. So Susan 
acted on her own responsibility, and ushered in 
Alick and Nannie without a moment's hesitation. 
Naturally Georgina was displeased. 

' How dare you intrude like this ? ' she said 
angrily to Alick, who retired with his usual proud 
humility. Georgina, however, detained Nannie ; 
' You can stay,' she said, condescendingly ; ' you may 
be of assistance to me.' 



132 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

'Nannie, Nannie, my darling/ murmured Mrs. 
Bryant, stretching out her arm to the girl, who 
knelt and received her affectionate kiss. 

' How silly you are ! ' said Georgina ; ' you'll get 
it yourself.' Nannie had not come to close quarters 
with Miss Bryant before. The imposing young 
lady failed to awe the country maid so much as 
might have been expected. 

'I never heard faintnesswas catching, miss,' she said 
with a little smile ; ' I think my aunt seems tired 
and weak. I will mind her if you will make a cup of 
tea. That will cheer her up as well as anything.' 

' I make tea ! ' repeated Georgina, in great 
dudgeon. ' Susan can do it when she comes in 
from fetching the doctor.' 

' Oh, but there is no need for that!' cried Nannie ; 
' Dr. Verrill will bid you get mushrooms or some- 
thing much more difficult than a cup of tea ! ' 

' Don't leave me, Mary ! ' murmured Emma ; 
and Georgina said she was wandering, then threw 
herself upon a chair, opening a novel. 

Mr. Bryant came in, and with him Sir Vincent. 
They were discussing Alick, and the clergyman was 
trying to remove the young man's evident impres- 
sion that the fanatic had frightened him. 

' What on earth is going on ? ' faltered Mr. 
Bryant, with another attack of complete terror, as 
he saw the dreaded girl at his wifes side, looking 



THE TURN OF THE TIDE 133 

her prettiest too, as she knelt iu the dying light, 
one arm under Mrs. Bryant's head. To the clergyman 
the likeness between the mother and daughter was 
alarmingly evident at that moment. Nannie raised 
her eyes to her lover's and a smile involuntarily 
dimpled her lips. There was archness in her 
glance, reaction after the agitation Alick had 
caused her ; and somehow she felt queen of the 
present situation. Georgina explained matters 
hastily. 

' I believe Miss Eandle fancied herself useful, 
papa, but I have no idea how she got in. I fancy 
she was visiting her friend Susan in the scullery.' 

' We are much obliged to Miss Eandle,' said the 
clergyman, ' but we need not detain her.' Nannie 
rose most demurely, but for the life of her could 
not restrain another peep at Vincent, and then a 
flush at finding his eyes absently fixed upon herself. 

' Impudence ! ' murmured Georgina, and moved 
her skirts away from the touch of Nannie's Sunday 
frock. Vincent was indignant, and as Nannie went 
out, he took his leave also. And Mr. Bryant and 
Georgina glared at him througli the window so 
intently, that it was not until Emma uttered a 
piercing yell that any one knew Dr. Verrill had 
surreptitiously ghded in and had poured the biting 
shock mixture down the neck of the patient. 

* Nannie, you little minx,' said Vincent, catching 



134 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

her up when they were out of the range of eyes, 
' you have done for us now. I shall have to explain 
to Mr. Bryant.' 

' It was you I ' cried Nannie ; ' why did you stare 
so, and come out after me ? I am very sorry,' she 
went on, half laughing, half apologetic, ' but Miss 
Bryant had made me so cross, I just had to do 
something to her. She was too grand to make a 
cup of tea ! and I saw her ladyship boil a kettle 
in that very house the day my aunt came first ! I 
did ! ' Vincent laughed. ' Do you know she told 
stories ! ' cried ISTannie. ' She liad sent for me, 
and she made me stay, and she didn't help Mrs. 
Bryant one bit. She only stood there crying out 
that aunt had the fever and she wouldn't touch her.' 

' Nannie,' said Vincent, ' it is not pretty of you 
to abuse Miss Bryant to me.' 

' Why not ? You don't care about her, do you ? ' 

'Not a rap now,' said Vincent, impelled to con- 
fession. The girl started and looked up anxiously. 

' Now ^ ' repeated Nannie. 

'Not a rap. I thought I cared for her once. 
It was a delusion. You have a right to know it, 
though, my sweet.' Nannie's merriment seemed 
exhausted, and she stepped on with her eyes on the 
ground. 

'I did not know you had ever loved any one but 
me,' she whispered, after a while, not looking up. 



THE TURN OF THE TIDE 135 

' I love you best and you only, Nannie. But I 
wish I had known you long ago ; then I should 
have been saved many mistakes as to what love 
really is.' 

Vincent's hand was on her shoulder as usual, 
and Nannie turned her head and kissed it gravely, 
her cheeks flushing. 'Nannie, you are a darling to 
understand me ! ' murmured Vincent. But even 
lovers are not always perfectly comprehensible to 
each other. Nannie understood, as Georgina never 
could have done, that her lover was remorseful for 
some former and ignorant faithlessness against 
herself; but her thoughts had not got beyond 
Miss Bryant, and Vincent had already forgotten 
that very superficial love affair. A few minutes 
afterwards they had a more serious misunder- 
standing. 

' I was so afraid you were vexed with me this 
afternoon,' said Nannie, timidly, after a while. 

He thought a little. 

' I was a little cross, wasn't I ? We seem to 
have made it up now ! But I was vexed, Nannie, 
yes. I did not know you were going about in that 
conspicuous way with Alick ; and — I don't like it.' 
He put his arm round her : 'Don't you see, my 
treasure, it leads to misconstructions ? You are 
making difficulties for yourself. And you remember 
what I said ' 



136 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

' It is not so very easy to help it/ said Nannie ; 
' he wants me so. Ah, don't be vexed with me ! ' 
Vincent thought he had reproved enough. 

' The fact is, Nannie,' he said presently, ' I am 
not comfortable about Alick. I hope all this preach- 
ing is not turning his brain.' Nannie sighed. 

' He is queer. I never know how much he 
means when he talks of things he has seen and all 
that. He frightens me when he tells of voices and 
visions. But then I remember it is only a way of 
talking, like the Bible and the Pilgrims Progress. 
Bunyan didn't really dream all that, did he ? ' 

' I suppose not. It isn't Alick's visions which 
alarm me, but his boundless conceit.' 

' Ah no ! That is where you do not understand 
him ! ' cried Nannie, warmly ; ' don't you see, sir, 
Alick thinks he has to believe and to obey every 
single word in the Bible, because it is all spoken by 
God ! Mr. Bryant and other people say that too, 
but they don't do it. I never saw any one else who 
obeyed the Bible like that ! Would you cut your 
hand off if it made you do wrong ? Alick would ! 
I know he would.' Vincent did not like this praise 
of his rival. 

' If I cut my hand off, Nannie, it would not be 
a proof of my sanity.' 

' Would you burn it off to pull some one out of 
the fire ? ' 



THE TURN OF THE TIDE 137 

' To pull you out/ said Vincent. 

' It is the same. Only Alick thinks there are 
other things as important as pulling people out of 
fires.' 

'Nevertheless, Nannie, I am going to get an 
opinion as to how far Alick's reason and self-command 
may be trusted. He nearly poisoned himself once ; I 
won't have him cutting his hands off, as you suggest; 
or perhaps some one else's.' The girl was startled. 

' Wliose opinion ? ' she asked. 

'A doctor's. The opinion of a better doctor 
than Verrill.' 

' What would he do to Alick ? ' 

' Probably advise that he should give up preach- 
ing ; perhaps leave EverwelL' 

'Alick would be very angry,' exclaimed Nannie. 

'Very likely. You must not tell him at 
present.' 

' Please, I hope very much — please, sir, for my 
sake,' protested Nannie, ' don't do it.' 

' I am sorry to demur to any request of yours, 
Nannie,' said Vincent, eyeing her suspiciously. 

' You do not know what Alick would think. If 
you wanted to make him really crazy, it would be 
the way ! ' 

' Which shows we must be on our guard.' 

' You think Alick is crazy just because you don't 
understand him ! ' 



138 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

' I have not said that Alick is crazy. But twice 
to-day, and on former occasions, he has looked so to 
me,' said Vincent, bluntly. Nannie was angry. 

'If you send Alick away from Everwell,' she 
cried, ' I will just go with him ! ' 

Vincent stopped short. ' What do you mean by 
that, Nannie ? ' he asked, slowly. They stood facing 
each other, Nannie's blue eyes flashing, and Vincent 
very quiet and cold, but devoured by sudden 
jealousy. Her excitement had disagreeably aston- 
ished him. 

' Do you think,' cried the girl, passionately, ' that 
any woman would turn from a person at the moment 
he was sick and lonely and perhaps despised, and 
needing her most ? Are you going against Alick 
and trying to make me afraid of him with such a 
notion as that ? I will not desert him ! ' 

'Take care what you are saying, Nannie,' said 
Vincent. 

Nannie, frightened by his tone, was half-crying. 
She laid her hand on his, but for the first time it 
met with no answering gesture. 

' I didn't mean I'd go with Alick as anything 
but his sister,' she pleaded. 

' That is the height of folly, Nannie. You are 
not Alick's sister, and you know he does not regard 
you as such, nor does any one else.' 

' But I can't give him up altogether ! ' exclaimed 



THE TURN OF THE TIDE 139 

Nannie. ' I am very fond of him ! ' There was a 
long silence. 

' How much do you mean of what you have been 
saying, Xannie ? ' said Vincent at last. ' Because/ 
he continued, as she made no reply, ' I must speak 
plainly in my turn. In a sense you are free ; you 
have never promised to be certainly mine, and I 
have no claim to assert, if even now you dismiss me. 
But that does not justify any trifling between us. 
Do you not understand that love is exclusive ? So 
long as you belong to me, even vaguely, I do not 
choose you to have intimate relation with any one 
else ; particularly with such a wild, headstrong mad- 
man as Alick.' 

Vincent in love with a princess would have 
spoken in precisely the same way, but from strong 
emotion his tone was imperious and the farmer's 
daughter was offended. 

' I have no intimate relation with Alick, sir,' she 
said, proudly, ' but I will not listen to you calling 
him names.' 

She moved on towards her home, and when he 
made a step to accompany her, shook her head. 
Vincent dropped back and watched her retreating 
figure with disappointed gaze. A little farther on 
the path made an abrupt turn, and once out of his 
sight Nannie sat down and burst into tears. She 
did not cry long, however. She sat up straight, 



140 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

her eyes raised to the soft evening clouds, and 
her fingers on the concealed ring he had given 
her. 

After a while her lover rejoined her. 'Have 
we quarrelled, Nannie ? ' he asked, sorrowfully. 

' If we have, sir,' said Nannie, with trembling 
lips, 'I do not think it is my doing.' Vincent 
took her hand in his. 

' Nannie,' he said, ' I cannot take back what 
I have said ; but believe me, my darling, it is not 
that I do not love you with all my heart ; nor that 
I am not feeling most keenly that I have, perhaps 
selfishly, led you into an ambiguous position, which 
will require the greatest care from us both, if it is 
not to end in difficulty.' Nannie was touched, for 
his voice shook. 

' You have not done me any harm,' she said, 
gently. ' Please don't be regretting anything for 
me. But I want to think it all over by my- 
self I don't think I understood before that you 
required ' 

' Nannie ! ' exclaimed Vincent, with a terrible 
pang, for her tone seemed to imply that his con- 
ditions were too hard for her, ' you are not going 
to give me up after all our love ? ' 

' I must think it all over by myself,' she re- 
peated, quietly. Then she rose and clasped her 
hands on his arm. ' You must never believe for a 



THE TURN OF THE TIDE 141 

moment/ she said, 'that I intended to trifle with 
anybody about such a sacred thing as love ! ' 

' Nannie, Nannie, my own darling ! forgive 
me !' 

She raised her face gravely to his, and he kissed 
her lips again and again. Then they parted with- 
out further speech. 



CHAPTEE YIII 

Meanwhile the vicarage had subsided into its 
customary calm. Dr. Verrill, after offending every- 
body, had gone away ; Georgina had retired, and 
Mr. Bryant and his wife were alone. Emma still 
looked pale, and was conscious that Edward was 
less kind than usual. It was not a propitious 
moment for the news the poor wife had to give. 

' I wish to goodness you'd go on, my dear,' said 
the irritated man, impatient of her stammering. 
' I can't, Ned, while you are so cross.' 
'You are enough sometimes to try the patience 
of Job, Emma ! It wouldn't be wonderful if I were 
annoyed, considering the provocation I have had 
to-day. There has been one eternal worry ever 
since we came to this infernal place, and I declare 
I believe you do all you can to make it worse. 
Well, are you going on ? ' 



142 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

She felt herself turning faint again. Never 
before had she heard her husband speak in this 
manner. 'I'll let it be for to-night, Edward/ she 
said, mournfully. Life was becoming too difficult for 
her. And all of a sudden she remembered, poor 
fool — and the thought seemed for a moment to stop 
the beating of her heart — that she had dealt with a 
man once who, whatever his faults, had never 
spoken to her rudely ; he had never raised his voice 
and he generally smiled ; and if he was sarcastic 
she had never found it out. And she had learned, 
this very evening, that after all he had not de- 
ceived her intentionally, and that he had meant to 
right her, if she had not married again so hastily ! 
It was an exceedingly lame story ;. but she believed 
it, for a day or two at any rate. 

Mr. Bryant, who was bad-tempered only under 
exceptionally exasperating circumstances, was him- 
self aware that nervous irritation was making him 
unkind, and to the most gentle, harmless woman in 
the world, as he very well knew. He had been 
wiser to go out and purge away his bad humour 
in private. While such disease is on one, attempts 
at kindness and heaping of coals on the enemy's 
head is quite beyond the strength. 

' You had better tell me, Emma, my love. I 
am sure I always wish to help you. Come, what 
is it about ? ' 



THE TURN OF THE TIDE 143 

' It is about — Nannie's ' she stopped, tremb- 
ling. 

' Oh now, I really am too much worried to- 
night ' then he remembered that whatever it 

was, his wife had fainted about it. It might be of 
importance. ' What of the girl, Emma ? ' 

* Oh, Ned, have pity on me ; it is about — about 
Nannie's father ! ' 

' Why can't you call him Ben ? You know his 
name, I believe ? ' 

'Edward — ' the poor wife rose and staggered 
to her husband's side, kneeling beside him implor- 
ingly, ' I didn't mean Ben. Her own— Mary's 
real father.' 

Mr. Bryant started to his feet, freeing himself 
from her touch. 

' Are you mad ? ' he said, his voice shaking with 
anger. ' You have no sense of the commonest 
decency, Emma, to allude to that person to me. 
How dare you disobey me like this ? By heavens, 
you will make me hate you.' 

No answer but sobs from the terrified creature 
crouching by the empty chair. 

' Get up, Emma, and don't make an idiot of 
yourself. Come now, I intend to be obeyed. That 
scoundrel has disappeared from your history and 
from the world, fortunately for you. If he were 
still in existence, by Heaven, you should not be here 



144 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

— in my house — associated with my daughter — a 
drag upon my career. You had better take care 
how you recall him to a shadow of existence by 
your indelicate sentiment, and your worse than 
stupid chatter. Come now, you have told the man 
Alick Eandle something ? ' 

' Oh, Edward, no.' 

' You have been gossiping with Ann Leach again, 
or with that girl ? ' 

' No, indeed, I have not.' 

' What have you done ? ' 

' Nothing. I won't say no more, as you take it 
so. It's of no importance.' 

' I am the best judge of importance. Whom did 
you see when you were out ? ' 

' No one — at least — oh, Ned, be patient 
with me ! I can't help being such a miserable 
woman 1 ' 

' Whom did you see ? ' 

' I think it was the visitor at the Heights.' 

' Well ? You didn't speak to him, I hope, with- 
out having been introduced ? ' said Mr. Bryant, 
with quick suspicion of his wife's idea of etiquette. 

' No — oh — no ! Ned, I am going to faint again ! 
I can't see. Give me some water.' 

Mr. Bryant bustled out of the room for some 
brandy and refused to let his wife agitate herself 
further. 



THE TURN OF THE TIDE 145 

The next day a curious little note in a feigned 
hand was brought by a ragged child for ' the gentle- 
man at the Heights.' It fell into Vincent's posses- 
sion first. 

' Unless you can do something to save her, do 
for God's sake go away. You do not know the 
mischief you will make for me. — E.' 

Vincent could make nothing of it and threw it 
on the table. 

' Some of your lunatic friend's work I should 
think,' sneered Mr. Kane, glancing at it. 

The visitor stayed on a few days at the Heights, 
went away and returned more than once, to his 
nephew's weariness. The Bryants saw no more of 
him ; but Mrs. Leach had made his acquaintance, 
and once Vincent caught him watching Xannie with 
great interest. He had, however, given up his 
jesting admiration for the girl, which was as well, 
for Vincent was less than ever in the mood to 
relish it. 



CHAPTEE IX 

Alice did not preach on Monday, and his disciples 
stood about looking for him, and were inclined to 
VOL. 11 29 



146 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

grumble. In the evening he ran up to the Farm for 
a visit to J^annie, returned sooner than usual, and 
with a new expression on his face, — an uneasy look, 
as if something had roused suspicion in his mind, 
and he had caught a glimpse of a snare. 

' Is thy poor head bad, Alick ? ' asked Mrs. Leach, 
and he started and laughed, aimlessly it seemed to 
Ann. Then he turned on her — 

' You've been at the Tanswick beer - house, 
mother. Are you not ashamed to pass the grave of 
your husband, that God-fearing man, in such a sin- 
struck condition ? Some day, mother, when you go 
by, you'll see his spirit standing on the mound 
where we laid his mouldering body, and he will 
come to you through the darkness and strike you 
with his ice-cold hand, and ask you in his deathly 
voice, " What meanest thou, woman, to dishonour me 
thus ? " I take it, mother, you wouldn't want to see 
your husband rise from the tomb to speak to you 
so.' Alick had dragged Mrs. Leach to the window 
pointing with his long finger, which looked white 
and horrible in the dusk, towards the distant church- 
yard, while his eye stared fixedly in the same 
direction, giving the impression that he saw not 
merely the far-away headstones and green wind- 
swept mounds, but the ghost he spoke of waiting on 
Jim Leach's grave. 

' I don't want Jim Leach nor Jim Eandle neither 



THE TURN OF THE TIDE 147 

to come from the place we put 'em/ whimpered 
Mrs. Leach ; ' but, lad, I'm a sober woman now, and 
have heard thee preach and obeyed the spirit and 
signed the pledge.' 

' Mother,' said Alick, ' thou art not rightly sober 
now.' 

And though Mrs. Leach had not broken her 
pledge, he confused her ; for she was the firmest of 
all the believers in his sanctity, and could not 
believe he was falling into her own trick of mis- 
statement. So at his bidding she fell a -pray- 
ing and confessing, joining to her supplication a 
fervent petition that if Heaven sent her messages 
about drink or anything else, it should not be 
by one of her husbands. ' Gin they came to- 
gether it would be worst of all,' she said to her- 
self. ' Gin I saw 'em coming in, in their grave- 
clothes, arm-in-arm, and both named Jim, and 
both so fond of me, and Jim Eandle the youngest, 
and touching me with their nasty clammy hands, 
one on each side — it's spirits itself I'd be obliged to 
have, and to send Alick himself to fetch it, gin I 
wasn't to die of a heap before those ghosts had done 
speaking to me and had got back into their coffins 
again.' 

The next day Alick was eating his dinner and 
preparing a sermon at the same time ; the dinner 
consisted of about two mouthfuls of mashed carrots. 



148 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

washed down by a tumbler of raspberry-leaf tea ; 
and his thoughts were wandering from the sermon, 
for he never turned over a page of his Bible. But 
he was not among observers ; the working of Alick's 
mind, as well as of his curiously unhungry stomach, 
had long been abandoned as a hopeless mystery by 
Jim Leach's commonplace offspring. 

'Sally!' cried Alick, suddenly, his face pale and 
drops starting on his brow, ' who is yon strange 
man walking there in the street with Nannie and 
Sir Vincent?' 

' I never sey him afore,' said Sally ; ' bey yo 
afeard of him, Alick V For her brother had left 
the window and retreated into the shadow of a 
corner as if fearful of being seen. Presently Alick 
slunk out, hatless and without a word. He pursued 
the trio at a distance, creeping along furtively as if 
hiding. If it were the fire of jealousy which had 
driven him forth, it gained little additional fuel, for 
Sir Vincent was not talking to Nannie. It was 
the white-haired stranger who was catechising her, 
about farm produce perhaps, for she carried a basket 
on her arm with a pair of ducks which she had 
been taking as a present to her aunt. Had any 
one passed Alick he might have wondered at the 
prophet's shuddering mien and the look of cunning 
in his eye; but the road was deserted, and his 
pursuit was accomplished unobserved. 



THE TURN OF THE TIDE 149 

' It's him/ muttered Alick to himself, and biting 
liis fingers ; ' it's the mad doctor.' 

In the afternoon the tide had rolled far out in 
long lines of low breakers, leaving the flat rocks of 
the scar uncovered, with here and there between 
them level stretches of sand. Upon one of these 
the congregation assembled ; and Sir Vincent and 
the stranger were there too, lounging apart ; the 
stranger was interested by the hymn-singing, and 
by the lay preacher, into the state of whose mind he 
had come to inquire ; for the doctor was a Plymouth 
Brother and had a turn for lay preaching himself. 
When he first heard Alick's rich voice, he smiled a 
little and was inclined to think he had lighted upon 
a village Whitfield, in whom the shallow worldling 
had discovered a case for his private madhouse. 

' I have been thought mad myself by my worldly 
relations,' he reflected ; ' however, the man has cer- 
tainly a wild eye.' 

Alick's sermon was thoroughly sensible that day, 
for he did not himself preach at all, but read from 
his favourite Isaiah. He had been unable to think 
of anything but the white-haired stranger who was 
present ; and when he opened his lips to speak could 
not remember one syllable he had prepared, nor so 
much as the text of his discourse. His inspiration 
liad failed ; he was dumb. Alick cast about for a 
device, and then, as I say, read random passages from 



ISO MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

Isaiah, that mighty Hebrew poet ; piecing them 
together with impromptu skill, and delivering them 
with all the charm of his keen appreciation and 
familiarity, in his exquisite tones, like those of some 
rare musical instrument, which, under the touch of a 
master hand, wakes instant vibrations in the hearts 
of the hearers. There was a lump in Nannie's throat 
before he had finished ; even Vincent was moved, 
and the stranger was struck dumb with admiration. 
However, the tide had turned, and there was no 
use in the congregation's half-discontented requests 
for a sermon. Alick had none to preach, and there 
was no longer dry standing on the stretch of sand. 
The people dispersed, and the two gentlemen, Alick 
and Nannie, moved shorewards together. Alick 
(sick at heart) was calm and even smiling; more 
sensible and alert about worldly matters than he 
had seemed for days. He told of even Mr. Bryant's 
altar-cloth without a trace of absurdity, and it was 
impossible for Vincent not to feel provoked by his 
man's mal-a-propos exhibition of his best side. For 
Nannie, not having the least thought of betraying 
her lover's confidence, had yet given Alick a hint, 
unintentional, — not much of a hint at all, but 
enough for one in the prophet's morbid condition 
of intellect, — which, blinding him to some things 
obvious enough, gave him unnatural quickness of 
apprehension for others. He guessed all about the 



THE TURN OF THE TIDE 151 

doctor, was forearmed for the encounter, and knew 
that Sir Vincent wished to make out he was mad. 

' Ay, I see what you are at !' he cried that 
evening, forgetting all the restraints of forbearance 
and mildness which a month ago he had recognised 
as duty ; ' you haven't found it so easy to steal my 
Xannie as you supposed. You've found out as she's 
going to be true to me, have you ? And you think 
you have a trump in your hand, and have told her I'm 
crazed and shall be put away. You sha'n't tell her 
so no more. I ain't so easy got rid of.' And then 
a fit of trembling seized him, and he looked round 
furtively at himself in the mirror, to see if the 
de\Tl possessing him had perchance grown visible ; 
to see if he looked ill ; if it could be possible that 
his enemy's suspicion was suspicion of a truth. 

' He's a mad doctor, I suppose,' muttered Alick, 
dri\ing his nails into the flesh of liis arm and 
setting his teeth. And he walked over to Vincent 
and shook his arm, his eyes glaring, and a wild 
laugh wrinkling his haggard lips. *I suppose he's 
a mad doctor !' repeated Alick. 

Dr. Simpson saw thi'ough Alick of course ; not 
entirely, for the man had been all day upon his guard, 
but a great deal more than he thought it wise to admit, 
except in confidence to Dr. Verrill, who did not listen. 
The great man did not understand Dr. VerrUl, but 
he made a very good shot at every one else con- 



152 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

nected with the case ; at the patient himself, who 
was likely enough to give trouble some day but 
was not unhinged yet, and whose pious work was 
delightful ; at the impetuous Sir Vincent, who had 
exaggerated ; at Alick's relations, ignorant, emotional, 
and likely, if alarmed, to irritate the patient ; at the 
fair young girl, half afraid of her saintly cousin, half 
enamoured of him, whose love would be his salva- 
tion. ' There is no occasion for alarm,' he said, 
cheerfully, ' and Dr. Verrill will keep an eye upon 
him. Medical men have to be most cautious in 
these matters,' he observed, as he pocketed his fee; 
' we must have much stronger evidence before we 
interfere with a man's vocation or pronounce him a 
dangerous member of society. I prescribe a generous 
diet. Suspicion from others, apprehension about 
himself, thwarting in his work, disappointment, are 
the fatal things for a man in his condition. I 
gather he has been crossed in love ; there you have 
reasonable cause for excitement in an ill-balanced 
nature. Give him the woman he wants, and a hundred 
to one he gives no further trouble. For the present, 
Dr. Verrill will keep an eye upon him.' And he re- 
peated with a smile, ' I prescribe a generous diet, matri- 
mony, and a general indulgence of his inclinations. 
Medical men must be cautious in these matters.' 

'It is a great relief, dear, is it not V said the 
compassionate Lady Katharine to her son. 



THE TURN OF THE TIDE 153 

' Mother,' answered Vincent, gloomily, ' let us 
never be religious over -much, for I do honestly 
beheve it distorts the judgment.' 

' You will learn, my young friend,' observed Mr. 
Kane, 'not to judge of people exclusively profes- 
sionally. You omitted to study your parson's social 
position and your doctor's religious one. Shall we 
suggest that you have made two blunders ?' 

Xo one could imagine why Lady Katharine, for- 
getting all about Alick and Dr. Simpson, the topic 
in hand, answered this speech by the warmest 
defence of Mr. Bryant conceivable, declaring that he 
was the very man, in all respects, whom her deceased 
husband would have selected for the position he 
occupied ; and that she had a sincere attachment for 
him and for all his family ; more especially for his 
most beautiful and delightful daughter, whom she 
positively loved. The fact was she had received a 
hint from Georgina herself about a very terrible 
danger to her dear boy ; and Vincent's marriage to 
Miss Bryant (always desirable) had assumed for her 
now an aspect of absolute necessity, to be urged at 
every opportunity. 

' That vulgar young woman !' Lady Katharine 
had exclaimed, thinkincf of Caroline Eandle and un- 
speakably shocked ; ' impossible ! ' 

' Oh, dearest Lady Katharine,' cried the weeping 
Georgina, ' do not believe it of him. It was a mere 



154 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

passing delusion. I know it. He loves me with 
his true, his real self. He has told me so : often. 
/ will save him !' 



CHAPTEE X 

Suspicion from others, apprehension about himself, 
thwarting, disappointment — the worst things for a 
man in his condition — became Alick's portion in the 
days that followed ; and Nannie was his only con- 
fidant. 

Alick had forgotten how to sleep ; but the in- 
firmity had been undiscovered and unconfessed, and 
at night he lay motionless on his pallet, staring at 
the dim starlit ceiling and afraid almost to draw his 
breath, lest he should wake the two boys who shared 
his room and so be detected a watcher. How 
despondent were Alick's thoughts during those long 
night hours ! He lost control of the thickly crowding 
fancies and fears, memories and resolves, till the 
last seemed first and the first last ; the most 
horrible, the most natural, and the least noticed of 
supreme importance. 

That failure to produce his sermon, for instance. 
Like a skilful actor he had woven his forgetfulness 
so cunningly into the play that every one had believed 
it set down in his part. He had told the people 



THE TURN OF THE TIDE 155 

that his divine prompter had bidden liim this day 
only to read from the Holy Book. It was not till 
night during those long sleepless hours that he 
recognised in the statement a lie, worthy of Mr. 
Bryant. He had not heard the guiding voice at all : 
he had cast about for a device of his own. Alick 
discerned the difference, for he had been inspired so 
often, so long ! Inspiration knew no toil, no un- 
certainty. He had not been inspired to-day. And 
oh what a moment for his inspiration to fail, when 
men were beginning to think him mad ! 

' My God, my God ! ' murmured Alick, with a 
groan, ' why hast Thou forsaken me ? ' 

In the morning he went to Nannie, told her of 
his trouble and craved her help. Nannie was not 
glad to see him, for she knew he was coming between 
her and her lover ; but it was not in her power to 
be cross to any one, least of all to one wounded and 
sorry like Alick. 

' What's the matter, dear lad ? ' she asked, quite 
kindly, taking his hand and leading him to the 
pleasant bench under the walnut-tree where they 
could be quiet together. 

' Did he tell thee I was mad, Nannie ? ' asked 
Alick, hopelessly. 

' I will not tell you what he said,' answered 
Nannie, distressed, ' but it was no such ugly words, 
Alick.' 



156 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

' Nannie/ said Alick, ' yon man who was friends 
with me when he came to Everwell first, is my enemy 
now. It's a bitter thing to look back on one's life 
and see the hopes that have been crushed and the 
pains that have grown out of pleasure, and how 
those one trusted most have betrayed one — some of 
'em with a kiss, lassie.' 

' No, Alick,' said Nannie, ' I never kissed thee a 
lover's kiss. Why are you so sad, Alick ? ' 

He told her — the only confidant he cared for — 
of his soul conflict and the trap into which Satan 
had led him yesterday in that matter of the sermon. 
Nannie listened, only half-understanding. 

'I have sinned, Nannie. Worse than the 
minister himself I wish I had not spoken against 
him now,' said the prophet. 

' I am sure so do I, Alick ! ' replied Nannie. 
' But there ! you are sorry. Your next preaching 
will be best of all.' 

'Maybe the Lord is tired of my preaching,' 
said Alick, ' and is going to lay me low. And yon 
man — thy lover, Nannie — does not believe the 
Lord was with me ! nor no one won't believe it 
when they see the Lord is with me no more. I 
want Him with me at this time more than ever 
before.' 

' Alick,' said Nannie, puzzled but compassionate, 
' I cannot think God is more needful to us one time 



THE TURN OF THE TIDE 157 

than another, and it is not like you, and not like 
what you used to say, to want God with you for 
your own sake's sake. Instead of talking to me 
here and crying out against God, because you are 
sad and a bit sick maybe, it would be better to be 
working for Him in the village among the poor and 
the sinful, and showing them His ways.' 

' Thou wilt come with me, Nannie ? ' said Alick, 
eagerly. 

She hesitated. Sir Vincent did not like her to 
go about with Alick. Yet as she looked at her 
cousin's worn and anxious face his need seemed 
great ; it was not the moment in which she could 
withdraw her comfort and her help. Sir Vincent's 
generous soul would be the first to acknowledge 
that, once she explained. Oh if she could only get 
hold of her dear lover for one five minutes' UU-d- 
Utel But she went with Alick. 



CHAPTEE XII 

' I SUPPOSE he doesn't know I correspond with the 
Medical Journal ! ' said Dr. Verrill one day later, 
talking explosively to his sister, while Alick was 
arranging the next room for the weekly club 
meeting. 



158 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

' Perhaps not, brother. I wish you had had 
your coat on when Sir Vincent brought him in.' 

' I have no patience with those men who live in 
grooves and make no experiments. The bare idea 
of the Executive holding its head above the Legis- 
lature ! Just the same with your religious folk. 
That man Bryant to give himself airs ! Give me 
the innovating genius like our poor friend Alick, 
if you want to set me psalm-singing.' Alick, hearing 
his own name, began to listen ; he wondered why 
even Dr. Verrill called him ' poor.' 

' I tell you what it is ! ' roared the doctor, ' if 
that man of traditions had been physician here in 
Everwell in these fever times, he'd never have 
discovered anything. The whole opportunity would 
have been wasted. He'd have cured a few weaklings 
by making them weaker and even more prolific than 
they are already, the fools ; but he'd have left the 
diet and the population and the bathing of the place 
just where they were. The world would never have 
heard of my new drug E . He actually men- 
tioned E ' (another drug well known to the 

reader) ' as of value. I'd like to dose him with 
R , the antedeluvian ! ' 

Alick's eye at this moment lighted on a dark 

little bottle labelled R on the shelf he was 

arranging. It had no business there at any rate. 
He put it in his pocket for the moment and acci- 



THE TURN OF THE TIDE 159 

dentally carried it away ^Yhen his preparations for 
the club meeting were complete. 

' Brother, you exaggerate. The man spoke of 

E only in connection with Barnabas Sawyer ; 

to whom I alluded in the presence of the strange 
medical man, merely from my customary deficiency 
of subject matter for conversation.' 

' Barnabas Sawyer is dying, I am happy to say. 
He has undermined his constitution with putrid fish 
and the insides of sheep. I wouldn't cure him if I 
could. A patient of that depraved nature is to a 
doctor what a scandalous w^ife is to a husband. 
There is only one way for the reputation of either : 
Othello's.' 

' The medical man asserted by way of conversa- 
tion — he experienced my difficulty in finding a topic 
— that he would try Barnabas Sawyer with R ' 

'I would as soon give R to Barnabas 

Sawyer,' shouted the doctor, jumping up and down, 
chair and all, in a wild excitement, ' as I would 
feed on it myself for a dinner dish. Have you, 
or have you not, read my last contribution to the 
Medical Journal .? If you have, tease me no more 
with such silly repetitions of abolished formulas.' 
Alick had presently finished his business and went 
away. 

That day a message was brought to the prophet 
in the cool of the evening. ' Barnabas Sawyer has 



i6o MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

seen an angel in a vision bidding him send, Alick, 
for thee, to lay thy hands on him and cure him. 
Thy prayers have never failed him on whom thou 
didst lay thy hand, man ; for pity's sake come to 
him now.' 

The people were catching up Alick's semi- 
Scriptural jargon ; and when he, discerning some- 
thing heathenish, but too ignorant to know what it 
was, had replied unwillingly, ' I went but to those 
unto whom it was the Lord's will to send me,' 
the messenger said again — 

' The plague stayed at thy prayer, Alick. There 
has been smitten but a man here and a man there 
since. Thou hast been given power over devils and 
diseases ; and thou wilt not disobey the heavenly 
vision ? ' 

It was beyond Alick to detect the fallacy ; he 
thought himself bound to believe and to obey. The 
messenger departed, telling all the people he met 
that the holy man was coming forth to work a 
miracle. 

' Time for one,' said a surly voice ; ' the prophet 
has took it easy this last fourteen days. He's too 
much took up with that lass of his. Propheting 
and sweethearting never was connected in Bible 
times.' 

Meantime Alick stood long thoughtful, and 
troubled by the message. ' You must come with 



THE TURN OF THE TIDE i6i 

me, Nan,' he said, and would listen to no de- 
nial. 

' Don't you like going, lad ? ' returned the girl, 
impatiently ; for why should he look discontented 
about work he had selected himself? Alick's 
trouble lay deeper. 

' Am I God,' said the man, bitterly, ' to kill and 
to make alive, that they send to me, to recover a 
man of his sickness ? ' Nannie was speechless with 
surprise. Presently Alick cried, * Lass, tliou wilt 
have to pray. Thou must not let Him go till 
He has heard. We must recover the man, or 1 
shall go mad because the Lord's favour is with- 
drawn ! ' Nannie put her hand through his arm. 

' Dear Alick, I never felt sure about it. I 
wish we had a plaster of figs like what Isaiah put 
upon the king ! Oh, I wish there was some good 
doctor here, like Sir Vincent's friend, to give us a 
medicine for the poor sick man. He has a wife 
and such dear, pretty, little children ! What will 
they do without him ? And he was kind to them, 
if he wasn't a good man all round.' Alick was not 
listening ; his brain had stopped at Nannie's 
innocent wish for a clever doctor to give a 
medicine. And his hand went up to the little 
bottle he had carried away accidentally from Dr. 
Verrill's book -shelf that morning, after chancing 
to learn it was the very drug which the strange 
VOL. II 30 



1 62 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

physician had suggested for Barnabas Sawyer. Was 
it a leading of Providence ? 

Alas for Alick I He did not knoio. He was no 
longer sure of his inspirations. He had lost his way, 
and was now only feeling after God if haply he 
might find Him. 

He remembered the failure of his sermon, and 
how he had yielded to an earthly device and had 
sorrowed and repented. Not thus would he sin 
again I He would put his faith in God alone. 
' Nannie, lass, take care you do not tempt me,' said 
Alick, sadly. 

There was a crowd round Barnabas Sawyer's 
cottage, for a storm was coming on, and the boats 
had not put out to sea. The village was needing 
excitement, and hailed Alick's approach with a low- 
breathed plaudit as at the appearance upon the 
stage of a favourite actor. Within was heard the 
hard breathing of the sick man and the loud crying 
of women and children. The crowd opened to 
admit the pale-eyed prophet and the beautiful girl 
who was with him. Nannie at a moment like this, 
when her soul was rapt in keen sympathy with the 
suffering, had the radiant expression of an angel. 

The pair passed in to the dark cottage, and the 
crowd streamed after them, awestruck ; for the 
presence of the dying is solemn, and solemn too was 
the mien of the heaven-sent messenger of healing. 



THE TURN OF THE TIDE 163 

The eyes of the sick man brightened when they fell 
upon Alick, and when the prophet, firm enough to 
appearance, though sick at heart, laid his hand on 
the cold brow, and spoke in his clear, quiet voice of 
repentance and faith, and the life to come in the 
New Jerusalem. The people gathered round the 
bed, all hushed and silent ; and Nannie stood 
opposite to Alick where he could see her, the 
youngest child in her arms playing with her little 
escaping locks, and the sick man's woman — she 
was not his wife by any ties, legal or religious — 
leaning on the girl's slender figure, and resting her 
head with checked sobbings on Nannie's shoulder. 

' Let us pray,' said Alick ; and they all sank on 
their knees, while he lifted his voice, as so often 
before, in strong supplication for the forgiveness of 
sin and the restoration of life. And the people 
said Amen, and the little children lisped it, and 
Amen came with a groan from the sufferer himself. 
And then Alick rose ; and for a moment there was 
a breathless silence, while his pale face paled 
perceptibly and his eyes burned through the 
gathering gloom. ' In the name of God and of the 
Lord Jesus Christ,' said Alick — and if his voice 
faltered no one in the excited company noticed it 
— ' I bid thee to arise and be healed.' 

Alick closed his eyes and turned away. He had 
spoken the words ; he had done his part, as he had 



1 64 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

often done before with strong faith and confidence 
and joy. He was not aware that he had in any 
wise failed to act as the chosen of the Lord, the 
mouthpiece of His will, the visible sign of His 
presence. But to-day it all felt like play-acting to 
Alick ; and when he had spoken he turned away 
with a roaring of many waters in his ears, and a 
darkness other than the darkness of night falling 
around him. 

Barnabas Sawyer, who had lain for hours gasp- 
ing and scarcely conscious, heard the words of the 
prophet and received them with joy, and felt an 
influx of divine strength poured into him. He sat 
up and stretched his hand to the weeping woman, 
while the crowd cried aloud, ' Hallelujah ! ' 

' Bar — Bar ! ' shrieked the woman, ' praise the 
Lord ! He has healed thee ! I am a miserable 
sinner, but He has healed and pardoned thee ! ' 

There was a hush, and Nannie's heart swelled 
with a strange emotion. But the fictitious strength 
failed. A cry of horrible pain- and terror broke 
from the dying man's distorted lips. A sudden 
sharp convulsion followed, terrible to see. And he 
fell back with a choking sob and a wild roll of his 
glazing eyes — dead. 



THE TURN OF THE TIDE i6: 



CHAPTEE XIII 



What followed none exactly knew. The event had 
been so sudden, so unexpected, that it was be- 
wildering and horrifying. The bystanders started 
back in a movement of panic, and the bereaved 
woman flung herself shrieking upon the corpse. 
Then some one muttered the word judgment, and 
the panic spread. Samuel Dykes, the lean ascetic, 
who w^as Alick's most devoted follow^er, and who 
was as mischievous to him as exaggeration ever is 
to truth, caught up the word, and began to declaim 
in what he believed to be his master's manner. 

' The great God has withdrawn His face because 
of sin. For your sins, oh ye backsliding people of 
Everwell, He hears not your prayer. He has spared 
you for the sake of His servant the prophet, but 
now He will spare you no more. He has carried 
His servant the prophet away in a whirlwind, and 
He has handed all of ye over to destruction ; be- 
ginning with the sinner Barnabas, who is at this 
moment in the flames.' 

The people fell on their knees, shouting forth 
ejaculatory prayers and groans, to the wild accom- 
paniment of the howling wind, which shook the frail 
cottage and shrieked and rattled at the casement. 



1 66 MR, Bryant's mistake 

A sudden gust flung the door open, and the bravest 
looked round with dread to see what spirit visitant 
was entering ; the women screamed and cowered, 
hiding their faces ; that sudden rush of angry air, 
which struck like a knife and made all teeth to 
chatter, blew out the flickering candle ; and in the 
uncertain light it seemed to many that the corpse 
moved its hand threateningly, and opened its eyes 
to roll them horribly from one to the other of the 
terrified crowd. ' God have mercy on us ! ' groaned 
the people, striking themselves and one another in 
wild confusion. 

' He lived in sin ! ' shouted the fanatic, * and 
now he has been given to the devil. Cast forth the 
graceless corpse, and the partner of his wickedness, 
and the brood of infant devilry which they have 
reared.' 

A yell came from a girl near the door. It 
seemed that the whole party were taking leave of 
their senses. There was even a movement to turn 
against the half-unconscious widow. 

But now Nannie, the young girl, rose, very pale 
and very resolute ; the only person composed and 
self-possessed. ' Oh, hush ! ' she said, in trembling 
tones, clasping her hands on her breast and facing 
the spokesman ; ' what you say is blasphemy. This 
man's death is not a judgment on Everwell ; it is 
because his time has come. He is not given to 



THE TURN OF THE TIDE 167 

Satan and to flames ; because he trusted in God and 
God is love. And this woman shall be honoured 
and helped by us all, because she is in gi'eat sorrow 
and her children are fatherless. Go away, all of 
you, and leave this house of mourning ; and let her 
and me do what is right for the dead man, for it is 
a profane and wicked thing not to care for the dead 
reverently and kindly.' 

Nannie's expostulation, still more, perhaps, her 
quietness and hallowed face, were not without their 
effect. Silence was restored and they all stared at 
her blindly, while the children clung to her gown 
and the widow kissed her hand. But to be super- 
seded in this way was not pleasant to Samuel 
Dykes. He had always been jealous of Kannie, 
who was too much heeded by Alick and who 
pulled the prophet contrariwise to what pleased his 
extravagant follower. 

'Woman,' he shouted now, 'you are setting 
yourself against the holy prophet — it may be 
because you would draw him to the sin of carnal 
delight. The prophet has left this house, seeing it 
is condemned by God. Are you so blind you can- 
not understand that ? Why else, when the prophet 
came to heal, is the man not healed ? Call Alick 
back and he will tell you so, if you believe not 



me. 



Nannie's attention had been distracted from 



i68 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

Alick, and she had hardly noticed his disappear- 
ance. Now she looked round with some uneasi- 
ness. 

' No/ she said, impetuously, ' do not call him 
back. There is nothing he can do here. You are 
all mistaken about Alick. He came to pray for the 
man, but not to heal him. He did not think he 
could heal him. He told me so as we came. He 
is not a doctor, and he had no medicine for the poor 
man's body. He has no more power to give life to 
the dying than he has to judge the dead, as you 
seem to think, either to flames or to the New 
Jerusalem.' 

Poor Nannie, vehement and unforeseeing, thought 
she was defending the truth merely and calming 
over-strained nerves. She was unprepared for the 
immediate result. There was a pause, as the people 
looked at her and angrily silenced the fanatic when 
he tried to reply in behalf of his absent master. 
And then a rude, coarse voice was heard — that of 
the man who had demanded a miracle ; and he 
began with a long whistle and a laugh. 

' You got the truth, good folk. That's the chap's 
sweetheart and she knows, though he never meant 
her to let on. Alick Eandle never healed no one, 
bless you 1 He ain't the saint he give out, with a 
key of his own for Heaven's gifts. He come here 
for sport, and now the luck's gone against him, he 



THE TURN OF THE TIDE 169 

has cut and run. Will you come with me, 
my pretty lass, gin you've turned against the 
prophet ? ' 

Had Xannie loved Alick she might have re- 
membered his reputation ; as it was she made no 
attempt to repel the insinuations, to explain his 
position, or to assert his sincerity. The man was 
rude to her and she just ordered him out. He 
went, and the crowd followed him. 

Nannie thought no more of the rabble, and was 
quite unaware that she had herself pulled down 
the delicately - poised fabric of Alick's authority. 
There was so much to be done for the helpless 
woman and the six fatherless children ! A minister- 
ing angel was Nannie in such a case. Some women 
are born with that power of helping. There is a 
magnetic touch in their fingers which soothes dis- 
tracted nerves ; a tone in their voice which asserts 
power to remove hindrances and endure anxieties ; 
a charm in their whole being which irresistibly 
suggests ' a correspondence fixed with heaven.' I 
have seen the faculty highly developed in the ugliest 
of Eve's daughters, and certain I am that superlative 
female excellence, whether of mind or body, cannot 
exist without it. 'Tis of the very essence of woman- 
Hness, and can be altogether spared only in certain 
few, tieless, self-centred old maids ; who, like the 
Eumenides of old, may exist for a purpose, but 



1 70 MR. BR YANT S MISTAKE 

who are abhorrent alike to human kind and to the 
Olympian gods. Nannie worked away with a will ; 
but she was in a fidget about Alick. His flight 
from the scene of failure had surprised her, as well 
as his words on the way thither. 



CHAPTEE XIV 

' Law now, it's Nan ! ' cried Mrs. Leach, delightedly. 
' My dear, Patty is mad with you for not going 
home. I'm thinking you had best stay here for the 
night. I'm an old woman now, my dear, and have 
seen life, what with my seven children and my two 
husbands and all, and one thing I have learnt, if 
nothing else. My dear, go where you are wanted 
— that's what I've learnt, and don't be always 
labouring for them as can help theirselves. If you 
see a dusty room and a broom leaning up against 
the wall handy, sweep, my dear, sweep ; the broom 
can't sweep of itself. But as for what Patty says 
about scouring milk cans as you can see your face 
in already, and rubbing windows as you are like to 
put your head through already for transparency, 
I say it's waste of yourself, and contrairy to my 
experience in a long and toilsome life, in which I 
always did my dooty. Which means, Nan, that it's 



THE TURN OF THE TIDE 171 

not at the Farm where you are wanted, among grand 
gowns and conventionabling ways, such as coming 
in early from walking and the like ; but with me, 
who am a poor sinful woman, none so over-truthful 
as I'd wish, and often in want of a drop of liquor ; 
and with my poor boy, who, I do believe, would lose 
that poor head of his if he had the wife he loved, 
and do a sight more good in Everwell without so 
much ill convenience to himself. You don't know, 
Nannie, never having had husbands to describe such 
things to you, the awful hubbub it makes in a man's 
nature, when he's in love with a young woman suit- 
able to his means and position, and handsome, my 
dear, like you, who yet won't say not so much as 
" Oh my beloved ! " to him.' 

Nannie burst out laughing, and kissed her aunt 
apologetically. 

* Give him hope, my dear,' said the woman, 
hugging her till the girl could hardly breathe ; 
' " Ann," said Jim Leach to me — he was mighty 
taken with Alick afore ever I wedded him — " what 
that boy wants is 'ope. It's meat and drink and 
clothing for him. Give him 'ope, and he'll be the 
greatest man in Everwell. Take it away from him, 
Ann, and it's a bad job." And he's in there, 
Nannie, with his head, poor dear. Go in, Nan, and 
give him a supper of Hope. Suppose he kissed 
you now, Nannie ! You wouldn't summons him 



1 72 MR. BR YANT S MIST A KE 

for assault, would you V said Mrs. Leach, winking 
playfully. 

Nannie pushed open the door of the workshop 
and found Alick kneeling in the dark, his head upon 
his arm, and with an air of supreme despondency. 
Clearly she was wanted. Clearly something was 
wrong with the prophet. 

She struck a light and bustled about, talking 
easily and lightly, till she had procured him some 
supper. ' Now, Alick, confess,' said the girl, sitting 
beside him, and as much surprised by his yearning 
acceptance of her cheerfulness as by his almost 
ravenous appetite upon sight of the steaming cup 
and the plate of cold meat which she placed before 
him ; ' what did you have for dinner ? One dry 
crust and mint sauce ? I'd like to give Dr. Verrill 
my mind about the vegetable system ! ' Alick 
prolonged the meal unnecessarily ; it was delightful 
to have Nannie of her own free will sitting alone 
with him, and waiting on him as if she were his 
wife. 

Mrs. Leach, looking in, was enchanted to see 
them so familiar together. 

' Bless you, my son and daughter-in-law,' she 
murmured, retiring discreetly. 

But after a while Nannie's forced cheerfulness 
failed. She could not forget the dismal house she 
had left and the dismal scene she had witnessed ; 



THE TURN OF THE TIDE 173 

and she began to marvel that her cousin could put 
it aside so easily. 

' Alick,' asked Nannie, suddenly, ' why did you 
run away like that when that poor man died ? ' 
The unhappy prophet was himself again instantly, — 
his confused, fearful, grieving self; and Nannie was 
sorry she had introduced the topic, for the gloom, 
which she had too successfully banished, over- 
whelmed him again as he looked up at her with 
woe-struck eyes, of which the haunting sadness 
lingered in her memory long afterw^ards. 

When, unable to restrain her curiosity, about an 
hour later Mrs. Leach peeped in again, Nannie was 
standing beside the seated Alick, holding his hand ; 
w^hile his head leaned against her, and he gazed 
into her calm eyes, and drank in the soothing 
tones of her gentle voice. But what she w^as 
by this time saying was very surprising to the 
mother, who had hoped to witness mere love- 
making. 

'Alick,' said Nannie, gravely and comfortingly, 
' I cannot think God meant you to do it, and all for 
a chance w^ord from a stranger. Listen, dear lad. 
God did not send you to the man to do that. You 
were sent to do just what you did — to pray for his 
dying soul.' 

' When I hearken to you, Nannie,' responded 
Alick, feverishly, 'it seems like I could think so 



174 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

too. I don't know how it will be to-morrow, lass — 
I don't know how it will be to-morrow ! ' 

Mrs. Leach was hopelessly puzzled, for she had 
caught the ring of anguish in his tone. 



CHAPTEE XV 

For the last twenty-four hours a storm had been 
raging at Everwell, and now in the intervals be- 
tween the wind-gusts came downpours of drenching 
rain. The season had been unusually dry, and in 
dry weather the clay, alternating on this coast with 
the sandstone, is liable to cracks and fissures, which 
turn to landslips when the winter torrents begin. 
In the village heavy rain always causes a commotion, 
for an overflow of the beck is irritating no less than 
unwholesome ; and the beck's overflow is almost 
certain when the storm is coincident with a high 
spring tide, as it was on this particular Sunday. 
' Maybe the prophet has prayed against the flood,' 
said one, and his hearers laughed. 

' Then we're like to be drownded to-night,' re- 
turned another ; and they all laughed again. The 
people had been shocked by Sawyer's death yester- 
day, and they wanted a laughing-block. They found 
it in their prophet. 

He passed along the street and the people stared 



THE TURN OF THE TIDE 175 

and said nothing ; a few nudged eacli other. No 
one followed ; no one spoke to him. This was a 
new sort of reception. Alick stopped and raised 
his hand to his brow as if bew^ildered, for a 
man grows accustomed to homage, and he feels a 
blank when it is withdrawn. And Alick had never 
had the firm self-confidence of genius ; far more 
than he knew, his belief in himself rose out of 
the belief of the people. He was startled by a 
slap from behind, and a mocking voice quoting 
Scripture like a very learned clerk, ' Prophesy ; who 
is it that smote thee ? ' And again the people 
laughed. And then, 'Where's your sweetheart, 
Alick ? She's turned against you. She spake up 
behind your back, she did. She told us the miracles 
was tricks, my boy.' 

To be jeered like this ? He who had moved the 
people whither he would ? who had been admired — 
feared — by that smooth-faced parson even ! The 
recollection of Mr. Bryant reminded Alick of some- 
thing. It was with the old feeling of inspiration 
that he said, his eye flashing — 

' The Lord would have you this day in His holy 
temple. The Lord hath a controversy with you. 
And He will show His power, to those who fear His 
name and to those who fear it not.' And then he 
walked on, calm and majestic, the prophet again 
like Ezekiel or Isaiah. 



176 MR. Bryant's mistake 

But the feeling of inspiration passed, and the 
next moment Alick longed to run away and hide 
himself; for he had prophesied some sort of doom 
to descend to-day upon Mr. Bryant, the lying 
prophet, and now he had lost all sense of belief 
in his own prophecy. It seemed to him absolutely 
impossible that anything should happen. He seemed 
suddenly to have fallen out of the atmosphere in 
which miracles live. ' It is a trial of my faith,' 
said Alick ; ' no ; it is a punishment for my sin.' 
But he felt sure of nothing. The familiar voice 
behind him which had guided and instructed was 
quite silent. The light that was in him was dark- 
ness. Alick began to wonder, even he himself, if 
the light had ever really shone, if the voice had 
ever really spoken. 

It was too early for church. Alick turned aside 
and wandered upon the cliff alone. In one place he 
discovered that a great mass of rock had fallen 
away and now lay foamed over by the breakers 
below, so that the hill -top overhung. Landslips 
at Everwell were noticed little except near the 
dwellings of men ; only the jet seekers would care 
for this one in an unfrequented place. Alick lay 
on the wet grass crowning the cliff, and reflected 
upon many things. 

Suppose he had been wandering about last night, 
as many a night before, upon those very rocks at 



THE TURN OF THE TIDE 177 

the time they had fallen, and had been drowned 
in the flood ? How simple it seemed — how nearly 
to have happened — without any notice from God at 
all ! For that too seemed possible to Alick to-day ; 
that he might come to a bad end somehow, without 
God's interposing, or caring, or even knowing — he 
who had been His prophet and had believed his 
every hair numbered ! A groan burst from the 
suffering lips. That the past should seem unreal to 
him ! A sign — a sign he must have ! Alick 
groaned and agonised for a sign ! Alone, unseen, 
unheard, with prayer to his God, and great entreaty, 
he commanded the rocks to move once more ; and 
they obeyed him not. The tide thundered and 
boiled, but the new face of the cliff was hard set and 
not a pebble shook, though the rocks had moved last 
night and had been cast into the sea — not at his word. 
Could it be that the heavenly machinery had run 
down too soon ? Were such accidents possible ? 
But now at last the church bells began to peal, and 
Alick rose and tried to accept simply and resignedly 
his new position of one no longer powerful with 
heaven ; to slip into church despised and neglected ; 
to kneel a despairing penitent at the feet of the 
very man he had denounced ; he, Alick, who had 
ever spoken truth, but was to be rejected now 
because he could do no miracle. 

' I wish every one were as punctual as you, Alick,' 
VOL. II 31 



178 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

said Mr. Bryant, in his pleasant way. And he 
passed into the vestry, wondering, with a discomfort 
born of his now habitual apprehension, what Alick 
Eandle was doing there all by himself half an hour 
too soon. ' He is concocting some stupid interrup- 
tion/ thought the clergyman. 

But poor Alick was only resting and trying to 
get warm and endeavouring to pray. He could 
not fix his thoughts. The only thing his attention 
could get hold of was the reflection that the land- 
sHp might very easily have damaged the church ; 
for it was a ruinous old building — often named un- 
safe. 'I will speak to Sir Vincent about it this 
very day,' thought Alick ; ' something should be 
done to stave the cliff just there. It wants a wall 
— a breakwater. The church is in danger.' And 
he raised his eyes idly to the chancel arch above 
his head. Long ago in Sir Charles's time, when 
Alick had been a little boy not long resident at 
Everwell, there had been alarm about a crack in 
that arch ; and it had been secured, rudely enough, 
for things were not done well at Everwell, by an 
iron bar crossing the archway; a terrible eyesore 
now to Mr. Bryant. AHck always remembered the 
putting up of that clumsy support, for the job had 
been completed on the very day of his mother's 
second wedding ; and in the church itself, staring at 
the archway, and at the newly married couple. 



THE TURN OF THE TIDE 179 

he had said with his notorious precocity, ' Whom 
God has joined with a word only God can put 
asunder; but what man has joined with iron, God 
can put asunder by laughing at it.' And Jim 
Leach had smiled good-humouredly ; but some one 
boxed the child's ears for saying bad omens at a 
wedding ; and Alick, who never could stand much 
knocking about, turned sick with the blow and 
the wedding cake and the excitement, and so had 
his own unlucky speech fixed in his memory. He 
remembered it to-day ; and querying whether he 
had not had faint shadowings of the prophetic gift 
even in his childhood, he raised his eyes idly to the 
arch. 

Lo ! the iron bar had yielded to the separating 
force of the cracked arch when the foundations of 
the church had shuddered. It had given way ; and 
though on a dark morning like this its now entire 
uselessness was observable only to a sharp eye like 
his own, Alick, who knew the condition of the 
crumbling stone -work, recognised at once that 
disaster was only a question of time. He rose to 
explain to Mr. Bryant, and to bid him send the 
people away. 



i8o MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 



CHAPTEE XVI 

HoWEVEE, the vicar had gone out by the vestry 
door, and Alick saw him at a little distance under 
an umbrella, talking to the sexton's wife. The old 
sexton himself was pulling away listlessly at the 
bell-rope, and Alick put his hands to his ears as he 
waited, for the clamour of the cracked and vociferous 
bell addled his brain. Presently he went back to his 
pew and sat down again. He was reflecting that Mr. 
Bryant would by no means thank him for his infor- 
mation. He would be incredulous. Alick knew so 
many things of the church and of the rocks which 
Mr. Bryant did not ! Mr. Bryant would say with 
that genial, superficial, supercilious smile of his, 
which Alick had learned to hate, ' My dear fellow, 
your thoughts have been dwelling on your rash 
denunciations till you have made yourself nervous. 
We will have service as usual, and my sermon about 
the altar-cloth ; and in the course of the week, if 
Sir Vincent thinks well, the arch and the unsightly 
iron bar shall be examined.' 

Somehow Alick shrank from hearing Mr. Bryant 
speak thus. He half thought of waiting till the 
service was over, that no one might connect the 



THE TURN OF THE TIDE i8i 

danger he had discovered with the doom he had 
prophesied, which had failed to come. 

And now came the sudden and the horrible sugges- 
tion, Might not this thing be of a truth the doom 
he had foretold ? Alick was too utterly confused 
and lost this morning to recognise anything clearly; 
he did not discern the prompting of a fiend ; but he 
did feel obscurely that this was not the kind of 
sign for which he had made supplication. 

' Are you not well, my good fellow ? ' asked Mr. 
Bryant, kindly; wondering afresh what mischief the 
hateful fool was after. 

' Sir,' said Alick's stiffening lips, 'there is danger. 
Look up ! ' 

' Pooh ! ' said the clergyman, good-humouredly. 

And the congregation was beginning to arrive ; 
among them Sir Vincent, who saw at once the wild 
misery on Alick's face and thought he understood 
it. Vincent kept his eye on him ; sane or insane, 
the poor fool should make no scene in church to- 
day. That ignorant, resolute, domineering eye 
chained the prophet to his seat. 

The service began, and Mr. Bryant proceeded 
unmolested. Notwithstanding the storm the con- 
gregation was large ; for some were interested in the 
fate of the splendid new altar-cloth, and some in 
the fate of the prophet's denunciations. 

Mr. Bryant preached away very nicely about 



1 82 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

superstition and the customs of the church ; and 
once he paused when a fearful blast shook the very 
walls of the edifice, and Alick Eandle half rose in 
his seat, to be pushed back into his corner by a 
feather touch from Nannie, and by a stare from 
the vigilant eye which had taken him in charge. 
And now the sermon was ended, and Mr. Bryant 
left the pulpit and took his place, not without an 
air of triumph, beside the altar, superb with its car- 
dinal velvet, gold embroidery, and hothouse flowers. 
There was a general sigh of relief. Alick had not 
interrupted, no judgment had fallen, and the dis- 
course had been tedious. 

' Let me pass, Nannie,' murmured Alick, ' I feel 
ill.' And he rose and moved feebly towards the 
door, Vincent divining his intent and permitting 
his departure, but with his own hand on the latch 
of his pew, ready to act if necessary. 

And again the wind -blast shook the frail old 
church from end to end, and it seemed that the 
ground shuddered and heaved, and that the storm 
shrieked at the windows with a warning cry. 
From far away came a sound like distant thunder. 
The rocks had again been shattered from the face of 
the cliffs, under the onset of fierce billows lashed by 
the furious wind. Alick and all heard the sound, 
and Alick alone at the moment knew its meaning. 
;__ ^The noise, the rending, the horror were in the 



THE TURN OF THE TIDE 183 

church now. There came a sudden shower of 
powdering mortar and little fragments of stone upon 
the transept. Then the iron bar descended with a 
crash, bringing with it the coping stones of the 
chancel arch and blocks of crumbling masonry, 
which for the first bewildering moment seemed to 
the terror-struck crowd the entire building. 

Alick Eandle, near the door and away from 
the danger, gave a cry that was the shriek of a lost 
spirit. 



CHAPTEK XVII 

There are few disasters which do not at the first 
moment seem worse than they actually are. It 
presently became clear that Everwell church had 
not crashed to the ground like a card-house, that 
after all not much had fallen, and that very few 
people were hurt. 

' Let the women and children go,' said Vincent, 
quelUng an incipient panic ; and bade his mother 
lead them out quietly. Nannie was the only rebel. 

' Oh, you — you are hurt !' she exclaimed, no 
one else noticing his bitten lip and clenched hand 
as he gave his orders. 

' What is that noise ? ' said Vincent, rousing him- 
self. 



i84 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

It was the voice of Samuel Dykes, and all the 
men in the church, and the women and the children 
at the door, turned to listen. 

' The Lord has made known His power and the 
divine foreknowledge of Alick Eandle, His holy 
prophet. The prophecy is fulfilled ! The judgment 
is come ! ! Alick Eandle, servant of the Most High, 
we kneel to thee.' 

And he flung himself on the ground before 
Alick. The heart-broken prophet pushed him away 
with a groan. 

Mr. Bryant's resolution was taken at once. He 
was in the pulpit, above the ruins, above the 
crowd and the trembling, miserable Alick. The 
clergyman rapped with his knuckles on the wood 
and compelled attention. The people looked and 
drew nearer ; they had looked also at the cowed 
and shuddering Alick, and had discerned that, alas ! 
there was no help in him. 

' Listen now, my good friends,' said Mr. Bryant, 
' and don't be such fools as to be carried away by 
ignorance and alarm. Alick Eandle is an impostor. 
He had planned this disaster to impose upon your 
credulity. I found him here for an unlawful 
purpose before you assembled. I have watched his 
abject terror at his own success. I saw him try to 
escape. I denounce him now as a liar and an impostor 
and a murderer, who has not hesitated in attempting 



THE TURN OF THE TIDE 185 

wholesale destruction to prop up his tottering and 
illegitimate authority. Do you deny what I say, 
Alick Eandle ?' said the clergyman, raising his voice. 
Slowly the young man made his way up the 
church, feeling his way before him as if he were 
blind. Then he stood before Mr. Bryant upon the 
broken chancel steps, his head drooping, like a 
culprit. Vincent and every one turned their eyes 
on the prophet and waited for a reply. It did not 
come for a moment ; then a great cry burst from 
his white lips — 

' My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me !' 
A little boy took up a stone and threw it at 
the deposed prophet. 



PAET VII 
EVIL NEWS KIDES POST 



CHAPTER I 

' Come, papa ! ' cried Georgina, later, ' I am en- 
chanted to see you. I have been made sceptical 
by exaggeration. You will tell me the real extent 
of the mischief.' 

His wife also crept to his side and laid her hand 
in his. ' Ned ! ' Her tone meant many affectionate 
things, and he kissed her. 

' Dr. Verrill has told me of six persons injured, 
Georgina,' replied Mr. Bryant. ' Emma, dearest, your 
brother is one. I fear he is dangerously hurt. 
They have got him home, though, comfortably, and 
I sent a message myself for his eldest son. Vincent 
has had a blow, Georgie, my child. I trust it is 
nothing serious.' 

The girl sat down and thought matters over. 
After a time she slipped out alone and made her 
way to the Heights. How unspeakably pretty she 
looked as she laid her hands in gentle Lady 
Katharine's, and then, overcome by emotion and 
modesty, sobbed on the widow's shoulder. ' Ah, do 



190 MR. Bryant's mistake 

not be angry with me. Papa will be most dread- 
fully angry. But I know you will understand how 
I must feel. You won't let Vincent know I came ? 
but if he should ask for me — oh, dearest Lady 
Katharine, let me feel I am near. Oh, don't think 
badly of me for coming. You — you know all I ' 

Lady Katharine was not the woman to send her 
away. 

Before this Nannie, Alick, and Alick's one faithful 
disciple had walked away silently from the church 
out into the storm and the rain. Nannie, who knew 
her dear lover had been hurt, was troubled to have 
left him, and was in no mood to be kind to Alick. 
' Send that man away,' she said imperiously, point- 
ing to Samuel Dykes ; and Alick obeyed. When 
they were alone Nannie stopped and said — 

' Lad, was any of it true that the clergyman said 
of you ? ' 

' Art thou going to doubt me, Nannie ? ' 

'You have been so strange this day or two, 
Alick. Sir Vincent said ' 

' You think of no one but Sir Vincent ! ' burst 
forth Alick. ' You are driving me mad, Nannie ! ' 

' Alick,' cried Nannie, ' I don't know what to 
think of these signs and wonders. I'd a deal sooner 
you had preached without. I can't see what good 
they do any one, and they make you so strange. 
I am afraid of you. You were nigh dying of grief 



EVIL NEWS RIDES POST 191 

last night because you couldn't keep a man alive, as 
if God would put life and death into the hands of a 
man like you ! But now you have done worse, and 
I don't feel sorry for you as I did yesterday ; and 
even if I hurt you I must tell you what I think. 
For now you have not tried to keep alive — you have 
tried to kill ! And you have hurt, if you haven't 
killed outright, two people whom I love ! ' cried 
Nannie. ' Yes, Alick — my father, who belongs to 
me, and — and — one whom I love more, and who is 
far better and nobler than you, and who never 

thinks of himself at all, and who ' Here 

Nannie's vehemence landed her in tears. Alick was 
utterly taken aback by her cruelty. He had ex- 
pected restoration at her gentle hands, and lo ! she 
was accusing him. He did not guess how upset 
she was by simple fright at the accident and by Sir 
Vincent's bruises. 

'You do not understand, lassie,' protested Alick, 
feebly ; ' it was not my doing.' 

' Ay, it was your doing. Why couldn't you have 
looked up, Alick, and have seen the arch was 
broken ? You were there before the time. You 
might have looked about and have seen and have 
kept the folk away. Then my lover would not 
have been hurt, and I might have forgiven thee ! ' 

' Won't thou forgive me, Nannie ? ' She looked 
at him, surprised by the anguish of his tone. So 



192 MR. Bryant's mistake 

far she had been merely railing; now she was 
struck by his note of confession. 

' What do you mean, lad ? No, no, I would not 
forgive you if I thought you could have helped it 
and did not. Alick, were you so bad as that 1 Tell 
me the truth. Did you do it on purpose ? ' 

' It's none so easy to tell you, Nannie, when you 
say you won't forgive me ! I will give up trying 
after goodness,' he cried, his self-control giving way ; 
' I will lie, and let the devil get my soul, and make 
thee forgive me. It's thee I care for — not God, nor 
heaven, nor nought but only thee ! ' 

' Alick, you are wicked ! ' cried Nannie, shrinking 
from him. ' If you had been a good man at all you 
could not say or do such things. I will have no 
more to do with you. You are wicked ! ' 

It had come — the thing Alick had dreaded. 
Not the world only, but Nannie, even his Nannie, 
was saying he had never been led by God at all. 
He made one appeal, out of the agony of his own 
tottering faith — 

' Nannie, thou shalt listen. I call God, and His 
Son, and His Holy Spirit to witness ' 

' Alick ! ' shrieked Nannie, ' I will not listen to 
you blaspheming God. Do not take God to witness. 
It is enough to make Him smite you ! ' 

She turned from him, not heeding his despairing 
cry, 'Nannie! Nannie!' She had forsaken him, God 



EVIL NEWS RIDES POST 193 

had forsaken him. He had been a liar, a murderer, 
a blasphemer ; possessed by a devil. He was 
abandoned to him now. The cup of Alick's anguish 
was full. Nannie stood at a little distance, her 
strong slender young frame drawn to its full height 
and her lips curling in passionate horror. Did she 
speak it out of some unworded reverie, or was it 
one of the tricks of his overheated fancy that he 
heard the words in N'annie's silver tones ? ' N'o, no, 
I never loved you. I hate you now.' 

A frenzy came upon him. They were close to 
the edge of the cliff. He could drag her to the 
precipice and hurl her and himself over it easily — 
easily and with demoniac joy. He had dreamed the 
deed not many days since, and the impulse came to 
him now with the familiarity of an action already done. 

Alick dug his elbows into the yielding turf and 
fastened his teeth in his clenched fist in the heart- 
eating eftbrt to withstand that appalling desire. He 
remembered once striking at Sir Vincent, and the 
relief it had afforded him to do even that much, 
though the strong man's easy mastery had daunted 
him in an instant. Amid the drifting spars of his 
shipwrecked self-restraint Alick yet saved this much 
— the consciousness that he had not now to deal with 
a man more powerful than himself, but with a defence- 
less girl, who was absolutely in his power. If she were 
to be saved, he himself alone could be her saviour. 
VOL. II 32 



194 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

Nannie knew nothing of her danger. She was 
startled from her indignant reverie by Alick's sudden 
leap to his feet with a wild, a grating, a horrible 
laugh, designed to exorcise the devil possessing him, 
but which paralysed Nannie with fear. She recoiled 
in terror from his wild looks and unaccountable 
gestures. Then with sudden realisation of her posi- 
tion she turned to flee. She screamed, but there was 
none to hear, and he overtook her with one bound. 
Whether this passion of Alick's were of hate or 
of love, she was at its mercy. 

' Thou canst not escape me, lass ! ' said Alick, 
with his savage laugh ; ' thy pretty face has sent me 
to the devil, and thou shalt pay for it' He had 
her by the arm, and with resistless force was dragging 
her to the precipice. 

Nannie had no thought but that he was murder- 
ing her. 

'Wilt thou buy thy life with a kiss, Nannie?' 
he said ; ' I have loved thee long !' Nannie's blood 
curdled, as again his laugh rang upon the air. 

'Push me over if thou wilt, Alick, and have 
done with it,' shrieked the girl. ' I will not kiss 
thee.' 

He kissed her, however, savagely ; all the pent- 
up passion of years breaking forth. If Nannie 
could have got away from him she would have 
leaped over the precipice for escape. 



EVIL NEWS RIDES POST 195 

But all the time he was recovering ; the wish to 
slay her had passed ; his senses and his self-control 
were returning ; and with them the agony of remorse 
which belonged to his restored reason. 

' If thou hast ever loved me, Alick, let me go !' 
implored Xannie, beside herself. 

He flung her from him upon the grass. Then 
sprang himself over the edge of the cliff, down to a 
ledge of jutting uneven rock, where he alighted 
somehow on his feet, and made another leap to the 
next shelf, and then on again. 

Xannie, terror-struck, crawled to the edge and 
saw him still on his feet and \igorous, descending 
the face of the cliff where assuredly he, if any one, 
had never climbed before — till he reached the beach, 
deserted at this place and hour. Then he looked 
up and saw her watching him. 

* Xannie !' cried Alick, ' I have loved thee well ." 
And he fled along the lonely shore, out into the 
storm wind as if the fiends were pursuing liim. 



CHAPTEE II 

Xaxxie's strength was exhausted by the struggle, 
and the fear, than which no suffering is worse. An 
hour later, at four o'clock, when the stormy autumn 



196 MR, BRYANTS MISTAKE 

day was already darkening, she was still there upon 
the grass, alone and nerveless, where Alick had left 
her. She was thinking it all over, and vaguely 
recalling the events of the day, and how she had 
risen early and had gone to church at twelve o'clock 
as usual on Sunday ; and the minister, Mr. Bryant, 
who was her uncle, had preached a long sermon ; 
and the prophet's foretold doom had come ; and her 
father and her dear lover were hurt. And she had 
railed at Alick thoughtlessly and unkindly till she 
had driven him wild. ' He might have killed me,' 
she said ; ' Alick was never one to think what he 
was doing when he was angry. But he kissed me. 
And now Sir Vincent will never kiss me again, for I 
cannot wash the mark of Alick's lips away !' She 
sobbed, poor child, shaken and miserable, and de- 
serted — sobbed with passionate vehemence. Those 
tears did her good. She felt more like a frightened 
crying child who wants a mother's protection ; less 
like a heartsick woman with the weight of the world 
on slender shoulders. 

After a time she struggled to her feet and crept 
wearily away. ' I will go to him,' she murmured, 
' I will go and tell my dear lover everything. He 
will know what to do about Alick ; and I think he 
will speak kindly to me.' Nannie thought with 
dreary defiance how little she cared now should 
any one be surprised by her seeking the gentleman. 



EVIL NEWS RIDES POST 197 

Alick had injured her too much in her own esteem 
for her to care longer if she suffered in the esteem 
of others for her true lover's sake. It seemed to 
Nannie that the only thing which could in the 
least console her for what she had endured, would 
be to throw herself into Vincent's arms in the sight 
of the whole world, no matter what any one thought 
of her conduct. But she was too thoroughly tired 
and weakened to walk fast. Her knees gave way 
under her, and often she paused to rest, sometimes 
running a few steps, though that meant supervening 
exhaustion and a sitting down on the damp wayside 
to recruit her failing strength. ' Oh, it is very, very 
far,' said Nannie ; ' the path must have stretched, I 
think. I shall never get to him.' Still she pictured 
her lover nursing his bruises alone in the comfortable 
library which John had once let her peep into ; and 
then herself welcomed and sitting by him on the 
soft sofa with his dear arm round her and his lips 
upon her hair, while she told him all. 

At the lodge, the gatekeeper was talking to a 
friend about the accident, and did not interrupt 
herself to address Nannie. Old John, too, at the 
house, let her pass without a question, only greeting 
her with, ' Hey, my pretty lass, thy sweetheart 
should have promised, like his Master, to build the 
temple again in three days. But don't thee take 
on about him, my pretty little lass.' 



198 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

Nannie made no answer. She walked past 
John Mke one in a dream, and no one stopped her. 
She opened the library door, looking for the welcome 
and the embrace all just as she had fancied it. But 
the room was empty, left as it had been primly 
tidied by the ugly housemaid. It had not been 
used to-day. She returned to the hall, where she 
had once sat on a carved chair, and Sir Vincent, 
whom she had come to fetch that he might comfort 
Alick, had himself brought her a cup of tea from 
the drawing-room before she went out with him for 
their first long walk together in the dark. Did any 
one but herself remember that incident ? Ah yes 1 he 
did, she was sure, for he had loved her even then ! 
— long, long ago, before N'annie had loved him ! 
She smiled to herself, remembering how his hand 
had trembled as he gave her that tea ; and how he 
had then been nothing — or — well, hardly anything 
to her ! But Sir Vincent was not in the hall to- 
day. A strange gentleman suddenly appeared, and 
with him was little Dr. Verrill, his coat off and his 
eyes dancing with pleasurable excitement. Nannie 
stood aside to let them pass. ' Perhaps you are 
right,' said the stranger ; ' I have not encountered 
your theory before, but it seems plausible.' 

'Nannie Eandle,' said Dr. Verrill, 'go home and 
change your stockings. You have no time for 
catching cold at present ; your parent, I regret to 



EVIL NEWS RIDES POST 199 

say, is an unwholesome, carnivorous, apoplectic sub- 
ject.' Nannie hardly attended and made no answer. 
Dr. Verrill passed out. 

Mr. Kane remained. He looked at her for a 
minute, then touched her familiarly on the arm. 
' What are you doing here V he asked, abruptly, 
still surveying her with an interest which Nannie, 
who knew nothing about him, did not understand. 
Offended, she twitched her shoulder away and walked 
on with too much dignity to heed where she was 
going. She began mechanically to ascend the stair. 
Who was this rude man, and why did he follow her? 
She ran heedlessly on, her light foot making no 
sound on the thickly carpeted stair. Mr. Kane 
turned back. ' This must be put a stop to at all 
hazards,' he said to himself ' Look here, John,' 
said the honourable gentleman, ' there's a httle girl 
gone upstairs with a message to her ladyship. 
When she comes down, send her to me in the library. 
Do you hear ?' 

'That's Nannie Eandle, sir,' said John the officious; 
' she's a sweet, pretty creature, barring her red hair, 
and the sweetheart of Alick, the holy prophet' 

' John is right,' said Mr. Kane, retreating, * she 
is a very pretty creature ; too pretty for the 
prophet and certainly, as poor Emma says, far too 
pretty for Vincent. Well, I will find out a little 
what she is made of 



200 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

Nannie reached the top of the first stair and 
went blindly along the passage, hoping she should 
meet no one, and meaning to descend again the 
moment that very familiar gentleman had disap- 
peared. It was already dusk in the gloomy old 
house ; and her heart beat with mere childish shy- 
ness. She paused, hiding by the dark curtain of 
the small high-up window, with its immense depth 
of wall and wide sill. What if some one came and 
thought her a thief? She could not tell any one 
she was looking for Sir Vincent. It was all old 
John's fault ; John was always so stupid. It was 
not easy to know how to ask for Sir Vincent. ' Oh, 
if he would only come !' thought Nannie. 

Presently some one opened a door on the opposite 
side of the passage and looked out — a tall woman's 
figure, and the girl shrank up into her curtain as a 
voice said, ' I thought I heard some one moving out 
there. Don't you think we should have a light, 
dearest Lady Katharine ? and the fire grows hot. 
May I leave the door open for a minute ?' 

Nannie felt glued to the ground ; it seemed im- 
possible now that she should ever get away from 
her hiding-place. She was afraid to look round. 
' Oh, if he would only come !' she repeated to her- 
self. 

The scrape of a match within the room made 
her turn involuntarily ; could it be he ? For a 



EVIL NEWS RIDES POST 201 

minute she could see only the glare from the newly- 
lighted candle ; then something at the far side of a 
large room like a sofa, and a dark figure sitting 
beside it. Then, as the flame of a newly lighted 
candle will, the light died down, and for a few 
seconds the room was dark as before ; then it 
flared up, and Nannie rubbed her eyes, and saw 
everything distinctly. The seated figure with 
back to the door was Lady Katharine. She was 
watching some one who lay upon the couch — a long 
nerveless figure with outstretched quiet hands and 
a white face. The eyes were open, rather restless 
and puzzled in expression. It was Sir Vincent. 
Nannie's heart died within her. She forgot every- 
thing else. A cry rose to her lips, and she pressed 
forward to get to his side. Wliy, oh why had she 
ever left him, even at his own command, when she 
had known before any one else that he was hurt ? 

Yet at the door Nannie paused, for she was not 
so carried away by love or anything else as to force 
herself in upon his mother without a moment's 
consideration. His mother ! But there was another 
woman in the room too. Vincent stirred uneasily 
and looked round in a helpless, appealing way 
at this person, who was fidgeting the candlestick, 
and his lips moved. Then he stretched his hand 
towards her, perhaps to stop the rattling and the 
flickering, perhaps for something he wanted. ' You 



202 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

want Georgina, darling ? ' said Lady Katharine, 
softly, pushing the hair off his brow as if he were 
her little boy again. Miss Bryant handed, a little 
awkwardly and roughly, so thought poor Nannie, 
the drop of water or whatever it was he was sup- 
posed to want. She looked very tall and erect and 
not somehow as if she cared very much. But 
Vincent ? He smiled and faintly nodded at her 
with a pleased and grateful air, which Nannie saw if 
Georgina didn't. In truth, Vincent ( who had remained 
on actively helping at the scene of the accident, till 
badly stunned in a second and more extensive de- 
scent of stonework) was pleased and grateful, for 
the cold water was reviving ; and he smiled at the 
giver because it was too laborious to speak. But 
he had no clearer notion of his benefactress than 
that she was some charitable woman with a soft 
hand, one of his maiden aunts most likely, who was 
helping his mother. He understood that his mother 
was there by his side, and he knew he was all right, 
and was not in the least anxious or worried about 
anything. But he had not so much as recognised 
Georgina. How could Nannie guess all that ? She 
saw his upward gaze, long because languid ; and she 
saw his smile. And then she could bear no more. 
She burst into tears there outside his door ; her 
hands clasped and her head leaning against the 
wall of the gloomy passage which led to his room. 



EVIL NEWS RIDES POST 203 

It was not till the child sobbed that Georgina took 
notice of her presence. Now she started back from 
the sofa with a scared face, exclaiming in a hoarse 
whisper, not loud enough to attract the attention 
of the stupefied Vincent, * Oh, look — look at that 
dreadful girl ! She must not come here ! ' Lady 
Katharine, much alarmed, turned to the open door. 
For a moment she could not conceive who the dis- 
hevelled, rain-stained, weeping young creature could 
be. Then she remembered all sorts of imaginary 
horrors. ' Oh, do please take her away ! ' gasped 
Georgina ; ' this is terrible ! Suppose he were to 
see her ! ' Lady Katharine rose swiftly and moved 
out of the room, shutting the door after her and 
leaving her son in Miss Bryant's care. 



CHAPTEE III 

Then it was not the handsome Caroline ! There 
was a measure of relief in that discovery. This 
seemed a gentle, yielding creature, not pretty enough 
to have a strong hold upon Vincent ; for weather- 
beaten Nannie was not looking her best just then ; 
and, like John, Lady Katharine regarded red hair 
as a deformity. The widow was a woman easily 



204 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

seduced into kindness. She took the child's hand 
and led her to her own room. Nannie stumbled 
about over unexpected steps in the darkness of the 
passage and the lady had to support her ; com- 
passion filled the good woman's heart as she 
seated the sobbing girl on the sofa by her side, 
and, still holding the little tear-stained hand, 
said, gently though firmly, ' My poor child, you 
must not come here ; I cannot permit it for a 
moment.' 

' Is he very ill ? ' moaned Nannie, ' is he 
dying ? ' 

'No,' replied Lady Katharine, cheerfully and 
kindly. 

Nannie gazed wistfully at the gentle lady to 
see if she spoke the truth, and Lady Katharine 
studied the poor little anxious face, and felt ex- 
tremely angry with Vincent. 

' Oh, if I might only do something for him ! ' 
murmured Nannie. 

' He has all he wants,' said the widow. ' Miss 
Bryant is with him.' Then she continued, 'Miss 
Bryant and Sir Vincent are greatly attached to 
each other. I hope soon she will be Lady Leicester.* 
Nannie snatched her hand away and sat up very 
straight, and said nothing. There was something 
in the slight emphasis her ladyship put upon ' Miss ' 
and ' Sir ' and ' Lady Leicester ' that made hei* 



EVIL NEWS RIDES POST 205 

breath come in quick gasps and her heart give a 
sudden bound. He had offered to make her little 
self ' Lady Leicester ! ' Nannie thought she had 
never realised what it all meant before. 

It was very silly ; Nannie would not have done 
it another day when she had not had so many 
shocks ; she hated herself for it. But after twist- 
ing a corner of her dress desperately, and looking 
at the toy terrier who was whining and licking 
her hand in sympathy ; and pinching herself, and 
even trying secretly to repeat a hymn to divert her 
mind, she suddenly succumbed to another burst 
of hysterical sobs, burying her face in her hands in 
vexation and shame, and abandoning all attempts to 
keep up her dignity. 

* My poor, poor child ! ' said Lady Katharine. 
And then she began the inevitable expostulations. 
' My son has been very wrong,' said the lady, 
' very, very wrong. My dear, for your own sake, 
I must say to you once and for all, never see him 
again. At whatever cost to yourself, put an end 
to it all from this moment.' 

' No, no,' pleaded Nannie, ' he has not been wrong. 
He has been very, very good to me. He wants to 
marry me ! ' 

' Oh, my poor little girl, has he let you think 
that ? My dear, it is quite and entirely out of the 
question. Never think of it again, my poor child. 



2o6 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

It could not be. You would make each other most 
miserable.' 

' I know. I told him so/ said Nannie, but so 
faintly that Lady Katharine misunderstood her. 

' I am afraid, my dear, Sir Vincent never really 
thought of it. He has been very, very wrong. I 
am not trying to excuse him. I can only hope he 
did not understand that you were seriously believing 
in him. He lias been attached to Miss Bryant for 
a very long time,' continued Lady Katharine ; ' long 
before ever he came here he was her declared lover. 
They are quite suited. She loves him deeply and 
they will be very happy together. If for a time he 
— oh, how wrong of him ! — let his fancy stray to 
some one else, half seriously — he must overcome 
that. He turns now to his true love. He is very 
happy at this moment with Miss Bryant tending on 
him. My dear, you must think of him as already 
tied. You are not so selfish as to want to steal 
another woman's husband ? ' 

' But he is not her husband ! ' said Nannie. 
' Will Miss Bryant not care if — if — he and I ' 

' That depends,' replied the lady, ' on how far it 
has gone between you and him. Some things no one 
would ask her to forgive.' Lady Katharine paused 
and looked searchingly at the girl. Nannie's heart 
beat till she felt sick, but she was too dispirited for 
vociferous indignation. She rose. 



EVIL NEWS RIDES POST 207 

' If you please, my lady, I am not quite sure 
what you mean ; but I have done nothing for any 
one to forgive,' she said with quivering lips. 

' Sit down, my dear,' said the lady, kindly. ' I 
do not think you have been intentionally wrong, 
though you have been most foolish. You must let 
me help you out of your troubles, will you ? Do 
not interrupt me, dear child. I know how painful 
it is to hear any one blamed whom we love. 
It is very painful to me to blame my son, for I 
love him most dearly myself. But for the sake of 
your precious character, Nannie, I must speak, and 
you will help me by listening silently, won't you ? ' 

' But you don't understand him ! ' cried Nannie, 
her hand on his ring; and she would have said 
more, but again those silly tears stopped her. 

' All, my child, I fear I understand better than 
you do. I know only too well there can be no 
question of marriage between Sir Vincent and you. 
And therefore any sort of flirtation — and that is all 
it has been with liim — is distinctly wrong. And 
most dangerous, Nannie. Believe me, my dear. 
Sir Vincent, I am sure, ought to marry Miss Bryant,' 
said Lady Katharine ; ' he has led her to expect it. 
If he can explain to her that it was only a passing 
fancy for you, Nannie, and that he deeply repents 
it ; that he will never see you again, and that his 
allegiance has returned to her from whom it ought 



2o8 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

never to have swerved, Miss Bryant is such a 
noble woman that I believe she will pardon him, 
and they will devote themselves to making each 
other happy. They will be happy, because they 
have the same tastes, friends, interests, ways of life- 
When that is not the case, a man and a woman 
very quickly drift apart and come to great misery. 
I know, and Sir Vincent knows perfectly well, 
whatever he may have said to you, and you will 
know, my dear, if you will think it over, that you 
could be no companion to him, and he would not be 
any better able to be a companion to you. He 
must marry a lady ; and you will be far happier in 
the station to which God has called you ; I hope 
in a little while the wife of some good, honest, 
working man.' Nannie sat long silent, and the 
lady hoped she had made an impression ; but she 
began to perceive that the girl was very, very 
pretty, and to reflect that Vincent would not give 
her up without a struggle. N'annie was thinking 
less of the kind lady's platitudes than of her lover's 
smile at Georgina. 

'My dear,' said Lady Katharine, 'he will get 
over this fancy for you if you are firm and do not 
encourage it. It rests with you, my child, whether 
all this folly and wrong of his is done away without 
any great mischief to yourself or him, or whether 
you and he, and alas ! others too, have to go through 



EVIL NEWS RIDES POST 209 

great suffering, and perhaps to feel pain and remorse 
to the very day of your deaths. You would not like 
to cause him great pain, Nannie ? ' 

' No, my lady, I would rather die,' said Nannie. 

' Did I not hear,' said Lady Katharine, cautiously, 
' that it was expected you would marry your cousin, 
the preacher ? ' The girl started and crimsoned 
painfully. She shook her head ; but the lady de- 
tected there was * something ' between her and 
Alick. ' My dear, you must be careful how you 
encourage attentions from any man unless you 
mean to make him some return. Do you know 
what the physician, who saw that young man at 
my son's request, said of him ? He asked if he had 
not been crossed in love. Would it not be a sad 
thing, my dear child (for the sake of a folly which I 
quite believe has been innocent so far, but which 
cannot go on being innocent now your eyes are 
opened), that a sweet girl like you should break 
that good man's heart ? ' 

Nannie was silent. She had for a moment 
thought of confiding in the gentle lady ; but it was 
impossible. No one would understand her relation 
to Alick ; even to Nannie herself it seemed that his 
unpermitted embrace had raised a barrier between 
herself and Vincent, which only Vincent himself 
could explain away. And would he ? Suppose the 
lady were right, and if she, Nannie, were out of the 

VOL. II 33 



210 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

way, he would be happy; returned to his first love, 
of whose existence he had told her himself, at 
whom he had smiled ? Ah, that smile I Would she 
ever be able to forget it ? 

Lady Katharine called her maid and directed 
her to show Nannie out. She hoped she had 
effected something ; and even Vincent could not 
accuse her of unkindness to the poor, infatuated 
child. Dealing with her son seemed far more 
difficult to the timid widow ; happily for the present 
he was liors de combat, and only fit to be spoiled 
and petted. 



CHAPTEK IV 

Nannie, under Miss Eobinson's guardianship, was 
nearing the hall door when she was detained by 
John ; and Mr. Kane himself appeared, saying he 
had a note he wished her to take for him to her 
father. 

' Well, if it ain't enough to turn that girl's head,' 
said the lady's-maid to the butler, 'the way all 
the men take notice of her. My lady's brother 
putting her to sit in the library indeed ! And I've 
seen Sir Vincent 'and her the sugar-basin like she 
was his sister. No one never asked me into no 
libraries when I was fifteen nor five and thirty 



E VIL NE WS RIDES POST 21 1 

neither, nor gave me tea in a china-cup, with sugar 
or without. And / never was draggled like that 
there Nannie, and my father was a tradesman.' 

* It's looks as does it,' said John, grimly ; * the 
men keep their place uncommon easy when a female 
has looks like yourn.' 

Nannie waited listlessly in the library till she 
became aware that this extraordinary gentleman 
was not getting on with his note, but was looking 
at her with far more interest than she could under- 
stand or like. She rose. ' Is the letter for my 
father ready, if you please, sir ? ' 

' Not quite. They call you Nannie, I think ? ' 
said the gentleman ; ' did you see Sir Vincent, 
Nannie ? ' 

' No, sir. I saw her ladyship.' 

' Did she speak to you about Sir Vincent ? ' 
Nannie was more alarmed than she could explain to 
herself. 

' If you will give me the note, sir,' she faltered, 
' I will go home at once.' 

' Oh, the note is humbug,' said Mr. Kane, toss- 
ing it into the fire and rising ; ' come now, don't be 
frightened, I want to speak to you! Nannie was 
frightened. 

' I cannot think you have anything to do with 
me, sir,' she said. 

' No,' replied Mr. Kane, ' I suppose not.' After 



213 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

a pause he continued gravely, ' Probably I should 
not thrust myself in your way, Nannie, if I did not 
happen to know that you have got into an uncom- 
fortable and perhaps a mischievous complication 
with two singularly unsuitable lovers, which I and 
all persons interested in you would like to see you 
well out of Mr. Kane for once in his life was in 
earnest, but he was a comedian by nature, and had 
played maliciously too long to keep a touch of light 
scorn out of his tone as he spoke of the child's two 
lovers, and Nannie was quick to detect it. 

' Sir,' she said, steadily, ' if I have two honest, 
good, noble lovers, their love is a solemn and a 
holy and a good thing, and I will not have it spoke 
light of. What business is it of yours, sir ? ' she 
ended, desperately. 

' I am afraid I shall startle you if I say.' There 
was a short silence, and Nannie's vague terror was 
increasing. She almost thought of calling John. 
' Mrs. Bryant spoke to you once of a child named 
Mary,' said Mr. Kane. ' If I tell you a little more, 
you will be discreet and remember that you must 
not spread scandals ? ' 

' I don't want to hear nothing about it ! ' cried 
the girl ; but he went on unheeding — 

' There are one or two persons, Nannie, who feel 
a moral certainty — in a day or two I shall make it 
an absolute certainty — that there is a mistake about 



E VI L NE WS RIDES POST 2 1 3 

you. Nannie Eandle had high cheek bones, depend 
upon it, and a red face like Caroline's. I believe 
you are not Nannie Eandle at all, but that little 
girl they called Mary Smith.' 

' Wlio dares to say such a thing ? ' exclaimed 
Nannie, panic-struck. 

* If I have told you,' said Mr. Kane, so seriously 
now that she could not but attend, ' believe me it is 
with the intention of benefiting you. Your parents 
did you an injury ; they would like now to be of 
service to you. If you had not been so neatly dis- 
solved into somebody else it would have been more 
easily accomplished ; but stiU it shall be managed 
somehow.' 

' Then did you know Mrs. Smith, sir ? ' asked the 
bewildered Nannie, ' and that bad wicked man who 
deceived and killed her ? ' 

' Did he deserve those adjectives ? Yes. I 
know him too. He lives chiefly in America. He 
is a lonely, unfortunate wretch without one tie or 
stake in life. It has been a matter of interest to 
him to find he has a daughter alive — and beautiful, 
Miss Nannie. He sees it would be desirable for her 
to leave this place, and he would like to take her 
away to the other side of the world and make her 
a lady. At least he has some such scheme in his 
head, if he can manage it quietly and comfortably 
for all parties.' 



2 1 ^ MR. BR YANTS MIST A KE 

' Without her consent ? ' said Nannie, flushed 
and shivering. 

' Oh, he would gain her consent when she under- 
stood that he could make her a fine lady instead of 
a farmhouse nobody.' 

* If it is me you mean, sir,' said Nannie, ' I have 
wished sometimes to be a lady, yes ! But I would 
not care to have anything to do with a man of that 
sort, not if he was my father, nor no one. I've 
been used to honest people all my life, and should 
hate to be among any other ! ' 

' Mrs. Bryant exaggerated his crimes to you. 
You would find him much like anybody else. 
Come, would you like him to be indifferent to his 
pretty daughter's existence ? or to leave her an 
innocent cheat personating somebody else, and 
among people who don't want her ? ' Nannie was 
silent ; she felt stunned. ' Let the idea simmer in 
your brain, my dear. But one hint for you to shape 
your present conduct by. You will not be allowed 
either of the two lovers we alluded to.' 

' That's for me to say, sir.' 

' It is the one point upon which we all agree. 
We are all resolved that you shall be worried out of 
Everwell, for as surely as you stay here you will fall 
a prey to one of those men. And to put it plainly, 
the one is as much too good for you as the other is 
not good enough. Come, your father's daughter is 



EVIL NEWS RIDES POST 215 

bound to show a little common sense in her affairs 
of the heart. There are other fish in the sea, 
Nannie ; a great many more — and bigger ones — in 
America than in the village of EverwelL' 

The gentleman's calm tone in disposing of her 
fate frightened her. She sank panting into a chair 
and stared at him. ' I don't believe it is true,' she 
said. 

' I will prove it to you in a few days. You 
will be discreet till I give you leave to speak ? ' 

' I have not promised not to tell what you say, 
sir. I shall speak of it at once to my father — him 
whom I considered my father ; and maybe to Mrs. 
Bryant, who knew her — that poor Mrs. Smith.' 

'You had better speak to Mrs. Bryant first. 
She will appeal more powerfully to your discretion 
than I can.' 

* What is the name of the man you say is my 
father, sir ? ' 

'Ask Mrs. Bryant.' 

' In America, you said ? ' 

'I said he lived chiefly in America. It is a 
pleasant country, Nannie — a country where pretty 
girls are liked. You would get on well there.' 

' No, sir,' said Nannie, ' I should never get on 
well unless I was with people whom I loved and 
respected, and who loved and respected me.' 

Her lip trembled, but she faced the man boldly 



21 6 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

with her grave eyes unfaltering and her soft voice 
distinct and clear. He shrugged his shoulders. It 
was enough for to-day to have made her acquaint- 
ance. So he took her to the door and let her go. 

' Emma can tell her the rest/ he said to himself. 
' I think I am rather afraid of her. By Jove, 
though, she is a most lovely girl ! The grave, sober, 
good little thing about her lovers ! She can take 
care of herself, I fancy. She has more sense and 
more character than her mother. All the same she 
has got herself into a scrape with Vincent — d — n 
him ! I suppose I shall have eventually to tell 
Katharine the whole thing. I can't be a party 
with friend Bryant in imposing her upon the already 
suspicious bucolic ; and some scandal was inevitable 
once Emma and I had met. The Bryants must 
clear off out of this, and the sooner the better, and I 
must hand the child over to Katharine if she won't 
take to me. Katharine's sense of duty would make 
her kind to her, and I should to a certainty get 
tired of the chit before I had had her two months 
on my shoulders,' he said, sneering. Nevertheless 
what remnant of heart he had, Nannie had somehow 
succeeded in touching. He was determined to save 
her at least from Vincent. 



EVIL NEWS RIDES POST 217 



CHAPTEK V 

The girl had not gone far before she sat down to 
weep. In her whole life put together she had never 
been so overwhelmingly miserable. Sorrow had 
invaded her suddenly upon all sides ; heavy storm- 
clouds and a night of thick shadow rested upon her 
future. ' I have no longer two lovers/ she mourned ; 
' if I am an impostor and the child of such bad, 
disgraceful, wicked people, no one will want me for 
a sweetheart any longer.' 

She sat long with heart aching to distraction, watch- 
ing the dull light fading in the gloomy, tempest-torn 
west. The wind had fallen now — only reviving now 
and then in a short sighing gust like the last exhausted 
sobs of a great weeping. The tide too was at its 
lowest, and though there were white horses chafing 
upon the sea, the billows no longer thundered against 
the battered and trembling cliffs. There is some- 
thing numbing in great pain, and as Nannie sat 
there and sorrowed, her thoughts were not very 
distinct nor intelligent. There was only one clear 
result of the day's woes to her. She must give her 
dear lover up. Her love, her king, her bright par- 
ticular star ! Fate had intervened, and not the gods 
themselves are strong enough to fight against Fate. 



2i8 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

Fate had taken her lover away from her for ever. 
It seemed to Nannie that for weeks things had 
been tending this way, and this one day's work had 
just brought in the end. He had told her himself 
that she must give him up unless she were prepared 
to abandon Alick entirely from that moment. And 
right or wrong she had not abandoned Alick in the 
way he had meant. Nay, she had been more with 
her cousin, more tender to him than before. She 
had not liked it, but escape had been somehow im- 
possible. She had held his hand ; he had leaned 
his head against her breast ; to-day, alas ! alas ! he 
had kissed her. ' It has not made me his — no ! ' 
she cried, indignantly, ' but it has robbed me of my 
sweetheart. The lady said I must put a barrier 
between him and me. She did not know it was 
there already ! ' 

And now there were all these other things. 
Lady Katharine had told her plainly that for Sir 
Vincent to marry her would spoil his life. Lady 
Katharine had said that Vincent would love Miss 
Bryant again, if she, Nannie, were out of the way. 
Nannie had only to believe it to give him up. And 
Vincent had told her himself that he had loved Miss 
Bryant ! and ah ! that unlucky smile of his was 
confirmation. 

' May I not see him again ? ' she questioned, 
sadly. 'The lady said not. But would he not 



EVIL NEWS RIDES POST 219 

think me faithless ? Oh, I am not — I am not. I 
must tell him so. But it is better he should think 
me faithless than that I should spoil his life ! No, 
I will not have him think that ! I will write to 
him and send him back his ring. Shall I tell him 
I saw him smile at her ? No ; he would think I 
was angry. He would think he had done something 
WTong. He has not ! I will only tell him I have 
given it all up, and that I don't want to see him 
again. And that he is not to be sad thinking of 
me, for he has never given me anything but great 
happiness. Only he must not think me faithless. 
I could not bear it. For myself, I shall be an old 
maid like Miss Verrill, and I shall think of him 
every day. And perhaps in the next world — ah, 
no ! She will be there too ! Oh, it is giving him 
up for ever — for ever ! I wish I could like Miss 
Bryant better ! ' said poor Nannie, rising and clench- 
ing her hand ; ' and I should like to know it from 
himself! Se, told me he had given up caring for 
her. Oh, my love — my love ! ' 

She was in the glen now ; her lover's glen, 
where he used to come and kiss her. Never again 
— never, never again. 

Nannie discerned a figure coming away from the 
farmhouse, and she waited with a weary feeling of 
disgust. It was Mrs. Bryant, who had been to 
inquire for her injured brother. 



220 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

Eemembrance flashed across Nannie. The strange 
gentleman had bidden her seek confirmation of his 
tale from this very woman ; she would do it at 
once. 'And oh !' moaned the girl, 'it is the end of 
everything ! If there were no other reason for 
giving him up, this is reason enough. I was not fit 

to mate with him before, but now Even the 

light-spoken gentleman said so ! He said my father 
in America would make me a lady, but that nothing 
could make me good enough for Sir Vincent ! ' 
Nannie pressed her hand to her side, and waited for 
Mrs. Bryant. And the woman embraced her — oh 
so lovingly. 

Nannie drew away and sat down on a rock 
beside the path and looked at Emma so gravely and 
questioningly that the woman divined instinctively 
that their relation was changed. For the warmth of 
her caress had recalled a suspicion to Nannie's mind. 
Patty and Caroline had talked of it in their coarse 
way often enough lately, and though Nannie had 
scouted the idea in words, it had taken some hold 
of her mind. 

* I believe, girls,' Patty had said, ' that Mary 
Smith was Mrs. Bryant's own! 

' Aunt Emma,' said Nannie, her eyes dark and 
mournful in the dusk, ' could a person go about among 
others and mix with them, and do the same things 
they were doing, and talk about little stupid 



EVIL NEWS RIDES POST 221 

matters, and all the while have a dark corner in 
her heart full of ghosts that no one knew anything 
about ? ' 

' Yes, yes, Nannie !' said the woman, stretching 
out yearning hands. 

' What are the ghosts, Aunt Emma ? ' 

' There are many, Xannie ! Oh so many. One 
is afraid to look at them. The ghost of lost happi- 
ness ' 

' Ko, no,' interrupted Xannie, ' that is a crown. 
I would not put that in the dark corner ! I would 
not be afraid to look at that !' 

' The things one has lost, Xannie ; hopes that 
came to nothing, pleasure that changed to pain ; 
loneliness ; and fear, which is worst of all — desires 
which were baffled, and yet went on — on — aching 
for ever.' Again the mother spread out her hands 
to her child and her breath choked. 

* I could bear all that,' said the girl, steadily, ' I 
would not be without it. If it was a good thing I 
had wanted and might not have ! ' 

* It is pain, Xannie. To some people too much 
to bear.' Xannie thought of Alick ; and was 
silent. 

' There are other things,' continued Emma : ' to 

be despised ' The girl started, and trembled, 

and awaked from her reverie. She had more to 
think of than just her two lovers ; for one of whom 



222 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

her heart ached, while the other's ached for her ! 
Her eyes sought the sorrowing face of the woman 
who loved her ; and for a moment Nannie was 
cruel, and for a moment she wreaked vengeance 
for her grief upon one who was guiltless of it 
and who would have shed her life-blood for her 
child. 

'And disgraced?' said Nannie, bitterly. Mrs. 
Bryant felt the keen blade of a knife enter into her 
soul, as the girl asked this meaning question in her 
clear, soft voice ; the voice of a sinless angel — it 
seemed, of an unloving judge. 

' Mary ! Mary ! ' said Emma, and buried her 
face in her hands, unable to bear the condemnation 
of her child. And Nannie understood that this was 
her mother. The moment for which poor Emma 
had long waited was come at last. 

'Who was it?' said the girl, later. 'Who was 
my father ? ' 

' Did he not tell you that ? Did he not tell you 
all?' 

' No ; and I did not want to talk to that gentle- 
man. I don't like him.' 

' You must not ask me who it was, Mary. 
You'll be fond of him when you know him, 
darling !' 

'How did I get changed into Nannie Eandle V 

' I cannot tell you, Mary.' The girl moved away 



EVIL NEWS RIDES POST 



223 



with a movement of displeasure. Mrs. Bryant had 
done it herself, perhaps. 

'Aunt Emma, how could you go about deceiving 
every one ? And how could you love a wicked man 
like that V 

' Mary, do you want to break your poor mother's 
heart ? If you were older, you would not say such 
cruel things. You would know that there is many 
a woman has loved a bad man and got into trouble 
for him I' 

' And when you had a child — a child ! oh, think 
what a serious thing a child is ! How could you 
have pretended you hadn't, and tried to get rid 
of it?' 

' Oh, my darling ! my dearest ! I know you are 
right. And that was indeed the dreadful sin, and 
all my trouble has been punishment ! ' Had the 
girl been sympathetic, Mrs. Bryant would have 
poured the whole story out in so far as she knew it ; 
Mr. Kane had quickly drawn it from her. But 
before this severe young judge she could only weep 
and feel like a prisoner at the bar, who pleads 
guilty, and stammers incompletely trutliful answers. 
' How could you do it ?' cried Nannie, misunder- 
standing. 

' Mary — there was Mr. Bryant,' said Emma. 

All Nannie gathered was that Mr. Bryant knew 
nothing about it. 



224 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

'I shall speak to him myself!' cried Nannie, 
quivering with indignation. 

Emma caught her arm in terror. ' My dear ! 
my dear 1 don't do that ! You do not know Mr. 
Bryant. I have had fearful work with him as it is ! 
He is angry with me now. If you go and speak to 
him, Nannie, you will make him cast me off, I do 
really believe. He does not love me like he used. My 
dear, my dear, he's all I've got now 1 He has been 
a good husband, and I have been a good wife, and if 
he got turned against me, I don't know what would 
become of me, Nannie! And indeed, dear, you 
weren't left to starve. You had a happier home 
than ever I could have made you with no brothers 
and sisters.' 

' As if I cared for that when I've been an impostor ! 
It was just the most cruel thing you could do, to 
make me an impostor. No one will love me or honour 
me any more when they learn I have been an im- 
postor ! And I have given myself airs and gone 
about preaching with Alick, and despising people 
who lived wickedly, and all the time my mother was 
a woman without a husband, and deceitful ! And I 
don't know who my father was except that he was 
a wicked, wicked liar, who didn't even love my 
mother and see she and her baby were taken 
care of.' 

' My dear ! my dear ! ' moaned the poor woman. 



EVIL NEWS RIDES POST 225 

• But I won't go on being an impostor ! ' cried 
Nannie ; ' I shall go straight away this minute and 
tell every one ! ' 

' Mary ! ' 

' I am sorry I can't be kinder to you,' said the 
girl, bitterly. ' It has all come upon me like a 
shock, and on top of all the other things. And you 
are a stranger to me and live in a fine house among 
ladies and gentlemen, and you have that grand 
Miss Bryant to love you ; and how can / love you 
all of a sudden, when I begin by hearing such things 
of you ? and,' cried Nannie, bursting into tears, 
' when I am only a poor girl, only fit to be among 
working people, and who knows nothing of the 
ways of gentlefolk, and can't ever hope to be a 
companion to any one of that sort !' 

' My dear ! my dear ! ' repeated Mrs. Bryant, 
who had lost the thread and only knew that Nannie 
was blaming her. Oh, it was hard, when she loved 
the child so, and had wanted her so long ! 



CHAPTEE VI 

And at last Nannie reached her home and crept 
in at the back door, her poor face white and 
VOL. II 34 



226 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

scarred, her clothes drenched, her hand tremb- 
ling and clenched miserably within its fellow. She 
was making her way to her own room when she met 
Caroline, — a person who always rubbed her fur the 
wrong way. 

' Well, I declare ! ' said the elder sister, who still 
wore her Sunday best, but spotted and spoiled as if 
she had been working in it. ' Here you are at last ! 
Come now, stir up this mustard ; I have done my 
share. Where have you been ? Drinking with 
your mother-in-law ? ' 

' Who is the mustard plaster for, Caroline ? ' 
asked Nannie. 

Tor father, of course, stupid. Much you care 
about your father, going off for the whole day like 
this. Come now, where have you been ? ' 

' I had to go with Alick.' 

' Going to try a few stories, are you ? We 
know better than that, and you are to be punished 
for your goings on, I can tell you. With your 
dear Alick, were you ? He has been here looking 
for you.' 

' Alick been here ? ' 

' Oh, you are frightened now, I suppose. Well, 
if I were Alick, I shouldn't trouble no more over 
such a deceitful girl as you. But there's no ac- 
counting for some men's taste. Even Alick couldn't 
think you pretty if he saw you now, my dear,' said 



EVIL NEWS RIDES POST 227 

the jealous beauty. ' He left that for you/ ended 
Caroline, throwing a bulky envelope at her sister, 
inscribed with Alick's upright, narrow, and irregular 
but legible writing. 'Don't stop to read it now, 
child ; get off those filthy shoes and come down and 
make yourself some use.' 

' I am not coming down,' said Nannie, angrily ; 
' I am a great deal more tired than you. Let me 
alone, Caroline.' 

'You are the most selfish, horrid thing I ever 
saw,' said Caroline, the lady of the family, re- 
treating. 

Nannie locked her door, saying to herself, ' I am 
sure Lady Katharine or Miss Bryant never spoke 
like that ! Even Caroline isn't a lady like them ; 
what must I be who never learnt any manners at 
.all ? ' Then, sad as she was, she smiled to herself. 
' But it was me he liked ; not Caroline.' 

The farmer just at this juncture was in the 
charge of Joe, the simple and stolid, who was never 
frightened at undertaking anything. ' Lord bless 
us ! leave him to me,' he had said to the anxious 
Patty ; ' I've nursed the cows oftener nor any one.' 

So Patty had gone to the hall, where were 
assembled her eldest brother and his wife, lately 
arrived, and Mr. Bryant. 

' Fire away, parson,' said John Eandle, who hated 
Mr. Bryant and was inclined to be insolent, ' and 



228 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

use plain English if you can ; we ain't Hebrew 
scholars.' Mr. Bryant did not relish his tone. 

' I suppose you know/ he said, slowly, ' that I 
have been anxious about your sister for some time ? ' 

' Much obliged, I am sure. Ain't there some- 
thing in the Articles, parson, about works of super- 
erogation V 

' Mr. Bryant, you never told us ! ' said Patty, 
reproachfully. 

' My wife did, I think ? No ? She has taken a 
fancy to your sister, poor girl.' 

' Poor girl ? poor girl ? Hebrew again, sir ? 
Pretty girl, I call her.' 

' John, hold your tongue,' said his wife. ' Would 
the gentleman kindly tell us what has happened to 
Nannie ? ' 

' Oh dear ! oh dear ! ' ejaculated Patty. 

Mr. Bryant addressed Mrs. John. He shook his 
head. ' I am very, very much afraid that her in- 
timacy with, her betrothal to — ' 

' Keeping company with,' suggested John. 

' — that young man Alick has been a mere 
blind to us all. He is much to be pitied, for I 
believe he has not a suspicion ' 

' Oh, d — n it ! Let the hunchback look after 
himself. You ain't sorry for him a bit, parson, for 
you've been abusing him this half hour. Get on to 
the point, do.' 



EVIL NEWS RIDES POST 229 

' John, don't be saucy/ said his wife. 

' The point is disagreeable to me/ said the clergy- 
man, ' not only on your sister's account I hope, I 
lioj^e she will prove to have been a mere vain and 
thoughtless child ; but on account of one whom, till 
this melancholy infatuation overtook him, I was 
pleased to call my friend, my ' 

'Your son-in-law maybe? We needn't name 
the gent if it hurts your feelings. We can all guess 
at him. He's been carrying on with Nannie, has he ? ' 

' La, John, you are coarse ! ' sobbed Patty, and 
John threatened to send the women out of the room. 
Mr. Bryant went on in his measured tones — 

' I have this evening received a communication 
from Lady Katharine Leicester, which I fear explains 
part of your unhappy sister's absence this afternoon, 
and which, I regret to say, confirms my worst 
anxieties. Shall I read it to you ? ' John snatched 
the document from the offended clergyman and 
backed towards his wife. Then he began to read 
the letter aloud, occasionally interrupting himself to 
laugh — 

'My deae Mr. Bryant — Your sweet Georgina 
is kindly staying with me to comfort me in my 
anxiety, and I may tell you in confidence that I 
perceived with the greatest rehef and satisfaction 
my dearest boy's rapture upon seeing her with me 



230 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

and solicitous about him. I do trust and pray most 
earnestly that all may yet be well with them both, and 
that this slight accident of V — 's may have the 
effect of ending their miserable estrangement. But for 
this end something must be done at once, about ' 

John read the rest of the letter to himself, twice, 
whistling now and then. Mrs. John, however, felt 
his hand trembling on the back of her chair, and 
knew that he was really in considerable agitation. 

' John, for mercy's sake, tell us what it is ! ' 
said Patty, in an agony. He still whistled for a few 
moments. Then he put the letter in his pocket. 

' Females are fidgets,' he said, ' and her ladyship 
puts in too many words. There's all I've got to 
say. Now I'm going to have a pipe and to look 
round the place. Good night, parson. I hope you'll 
get your precious son-in-law. He seems a good 
sort, and popular with the women,' ended John ; and 
sent Patty back to her father, remarking that in his 
opinion the Governor was in a bad way. Then he 
called his wife to him outside the door. 'You go 
and do up your traps, missus,' he said, ' and set 
Caroline or some one to do up the girl's. For off 
you two go, back to Faverton to-night ; and if you 
don't hold her tight and keep her safe till I come to 
you, you'll catch it.' 

' It's serious then, John ? ' 



EVIL NEWS RIDES POST 231 

* Can't say ; but she don't stay here. Do you 
understand now ? I must remain to look after the 
Gov., and to see what I can make of Humpy, and 
maybe to give a bit of cheek to H.E.H. if I get a 
candid opportunity. Go away now.' 

Then Mr. John, alone with Mr. Bryant, changed 
his tone and asked seriously — 

' Come now, sir, if I send my sister away I must 
know the truth, and whether she's to be allowed 
back after she's tired tearing her hair. How far has 
this matter gone ? ' Mr. Bryant reflected. To be 
rid of Nannie was his darling wish. He shook his 
head. 

* In another place, with other surroundings,' he 
said, sadly, ' she may retrieve herself, but here ' 



CHAPTEK VII 

Alice's letter : 'You will not see me, Nannie ? 
Because for one five minutes, for the first time after 
all these years of our love, when I was in a state of 
spiritual misery such as you have no guess of, — I did 
what I should not have done, and said words in my 
passion to fright you, and forgot my promise and 
kissed you, lassie, against your will. And now you 
have cast me away and will not see me. Nannie, 
you are unjust and you are cruel. Did not that 



232 MR. Bryant's mistake 

other man kiss you without leave and you forgave 
him, though he had no right to be your lover, lass ? 
Thou shouldst not have a face so fit for kissing, 
Xannie, if it is such a crime in one as loves thee. 

* Oh, lassie, lassie ! if you could know the pain 1 
am suffering, you would forgive me what I did. 
Dost thou know that God used to speak to me, and 
now He speaks no more ? I used to hear His voice, 
and now I hear the voices of devils. And some- 
times I do not know if it is His voice or the voice 
of a devil. Would it not break your heart, Nannie, 
to fall so low as that ? It was Satan bid me read 
to the people astead of preaching, and I did it. It 
was God who bid me heal yon dying man with an 
earthly means, and I refused and the man died. 
And when the morning came — oh, Nannie, if I 
could tell the sorrow that I sorrowed then ! For it 
seemed as if the day of judgment was come, and the 
people were gathering to see the Lord judge between 
the false prophet and the true. Yet I did not feel the 
Lord's guiding hand, Nannie, as I had felt it in 
times past ; and I did not hear His voice, and I felt 
as if the Lord had brought me to the Judgment Bar 
and had promised to be my Advocate, but had not 
come, and had left me to plead for myself. Till at 
the last I looked up and I saw the danger in the 
archway, and I knew that the rocks were rending, 
and that at a breath the whole church might topple 



EVIL NEWS RIDES POST 233 

and fall. And I thought He said to me, " Oh thou 
of little faith, behold I am with thee to fulfil thy 
word that all men may know that thou art My 
servant." But, Nannie, it was Satan who spoke to me, 
and I thought it was the voice of God I And what 
the Lord meant was that I should up and give the 
people warning. He was trying me to see if I would 
obey Him ; and I did not. And when the parson 
said I had sinned, I could not contradict him. But 
I have told you, lassie, what none other but God 
will ever know, how it all came about. 

'Do you understand now how my heart was like to 
break with misery when I was there on the cliff 
with you ? and you were sharp and unkind to me, 
and did talk of thy other lover, who has no right to 
thee, till I w^as nigh mad with jealousy, and love of 
thee, and reckless what ill things I did now I was a 
castaway from God. And now, lassie, I have gone 
forth and I know not what will come to me, and if I 
can keep right at all without God to guide me. And 
I have no comfort and no hope and no good. But if 
you would forgive me, lassie, and iiyou would help me, 
I think there might be hope and work for thy poor 
Alick yet, caring for thee ! And I would know that 
though by reason of my sin the Lord will not have 
me for His prophet no more, yet He has pardoned 
me, and is smiling on me still, and has a favour to 
me, because He has given me my dear love. But if 



234 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

thou wilt not, if I have sinned too bad for even thet 
to forgive me, then I am afeard to look to the future 
at all, for it is all black and smoke-filled, with big 
red clouds clashing together, and streaks of fire and 
rolls of thunder, and trouble in the roaring of the 
sea. Oh, lassie, let me speak with thee — to-day — 
to-morrow — speak with me, Nannie, my own — my 
Nannie — I have none left but only thee.' 

Alick had written that letter in the hall of the 
Farm, whither he had come seeking Nannie. But he 
had found only Caroline. She was not a person of 
discrimination, and she saw nothing very different 
about him from usual. She just thought him 
boorish. He was uncivil not to believe her when 
she declared that Nannie was out. 

' Well,' said Caroline, * I can't help it. I wish 
you'd go away. There, write your message for the 
child, and I'll give it to her when she comes in. 
Will that do you?' She pushed the inkstand at 
him and left him ; and Alick began a word or two, 
which expanded into a long letter. He was unused 
to writing, but expression of no sort was difficult to 
him, and the pen flew. The writing was crooked 
and blurred with his excitement, but the meaning 
was plain enough. 

Joe lounged in, a straw in his mouth and with his 
usual air of good-humoured simplicity. He had not 



EVIL NEWS RIDES POST 235 

the smallest veneration for Alick. It would be 
rash to say that Joe venerated any one. He regarded 
his cousin as some quaint performing animal, whose 
cleverness calls for wonder at the very time you are 
best convinced of his inferiority. And Joe, who 
took two hours to write a letter of four lines, could 
not conceive, even when he scratched his head for 
assistance, what the dickens that scribbling chap 
was doing so busily. 

' I say,' said Joe, nudging Alick's arm, and rather 
frightened himself by the start the man gave on 
being roused from his absorption, ' if I were you, 
I'd cut. The parson's coming up and he's going to 
summons you for pulling his church down.' Alick 
stared stupidly at Joe, for his thoughts were all 
with Nannie. 

' Summons ? ' he repeated, vaguely. 

*Ay. Shut you up.' Joe burst out laughing 
at the look of terror that flashed over Alick's worn 
countenance. 

' In the — the ' he stammered ; but could not 

get out the word. ' Shut up ' had come to have 
only one meaning for Alick. 

' My word, ain't you a coward though ! I'd cut 
if I were you, but I wouldn't look so scared,' laughed 
Joe, ' whether I'd done it or not.' 

Alick folded his letter and directed it to Nannie, 
with a hurry that defeated its own object. Then 



236 AIR. Bryant's MISTAKE 

he went to the door ; then returned and opened his 
letter, and added, this time in very irregular writing — 

' I am going to hide ; but at six in the morning 
I'll look for thee in the summer-house. For God's 
sake, Nannie, have mercy on me, and don't give me 
over to the devil. That's what it comes to.' 

Then again he shut the letter with quaking 
fingers. He stood over the fire with it for some 
time. It seemed as if he were going to burn it. 
Joe watched him with amused curiosity. 

' I see parson coming along,' said Joe. 

Alick dropped the letter on the table and went 
out hurriedly. Joe roared with laughter. ' I think 
that chap's got a maggot in his head,' he said again 
and again. 

Alick did not return home that night. Mrs. 
Leach was anxious but said nothing, for Alick had 
stayed away for a night sometimes before. 

At dawn the birds saw a starved, hunted-looking 
creature creep slowly along to Nannie's summer-house. 
He looked about him as if dreading an enemy con- 
cealed somewhere. He lay down near the door of 
the arbour and waited. He was hungry, and 
chewed the rose leaves impatiently. Now and then 
he smiled to himself ' She will come,' he said ; for 
Nannie was one who never failed a trust. 

After a long time, when the sun was getting 
high in the heavens, he raised himself on his elbow 



EVIL NEWS RIDES POST 237 

and began to wonder why she tarried. He became 
aware that it was long past the appointed hour. 
He rose and moved to the arbour slowly. ' She 
must have been there all the time/ he said. He 
looked in. Then with a yell he started back, and 
fled down the garden, leaping over the low hedge 
out into the fields, away over the moor. 

'Nothing there but the devil,' he shrieked as he fled. 

Xo one saw hmi. . 



CHAPTER VIII 

Nannie was moved long before she had finished 
reading Alick's letter. She understood him so well, 
and knew that every word had come from the depths 
of his stricken soul. Xot of the stern sane stuff neces- 
sary for reformers and martyrs was this poor ^'illage 
fanatic made. And Xannie, who understood him, 
discerned this. ' It will drive him wild,' she said 
to herself; 'some would call him wild already. 
Oh, poor dear Alick ! I thought him wild this 
morning myself Oh, why does he love me so,' 
cried Xannie, ' when I have no love for him ! ' 

' I must do something,' her soliloquy went on ; 'I 
will save him if I can. To-morrow early I will 
meet him. I will comfort him. I will make him 
listen to reason. He will hear me as he heard 



238 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

when I talked to him about that poor man's death ; 
I will take him to Mr. Bryant, and make him under- 
stand that Alick is not a hypocrite. I w^ill tell Sir 
Vincent all about him, and he will help him.' 

Just then Nannie was startled by the steps of 
two or three persons coming up her little stair. 
She recognised Caroline's voice, but who could the 
other people be ? It sounded like John ; but he 
was at Faverton, wasn't he ? ' Oh, I do hope poor 
father is not very ill ! ' thought Nannie for the first 
time. ' He must be, if they have sent for John ! 
Why are they coming to me ? ' Nannie was so 
frightened that she flung her door open before the 
invaders reached it, and cried distractedly, ' Oh, 
what is the matter ? Has he sent for me ? Has 
he heard anything ? ' But as John tried to kiss 
her Nannie reddened and turned away, saying to 
herself bitterly, ' He is not my brother. I have no 
brother and no sister and no father any more. 
They will hate me when they know. Father hates 
me already.' 

John sent the women away and shut the door 
upon them ; then threw himself upon Nannie's 
one little chair and stared at her : insolently, she 
fancied, though his thoughts of her were by no 
means unkind ones. Nannie stood defiantly before 
him, and for a long time there was silence. 

At last she spoke. ' I think you are very rude. 



EVIL NEWS RIDES POST 239 

John, coming into my room this way when I'm 
dressing, and taking my chair so that I have to 
stand. What do you want ? ' 

' I won't go out of my way to discuss manners 
with you,' replied John ; ' mine are farmhouse ones 
and mayn't be the choicest in the world ; but I 
know this much, they are the best for me and for 
you. Come now, my girl, the Gov. is laid up, and 
like to be so for a long time, I'm afraid, and that 
is why I have taken the law into my own hands. 
You'll just do as I bid you without a fuss.' 

' What do you want ? ' 

' I want this, Nan, and mean to have it too. 
You just dress yourself and come down quietly and 
eat a bit of supper, and then away you and Maria 
bustle by the 9.30 from Tanswick to my house at 
Faverton.' 

' Oh, I can't go. I have things to do at home. 
Let Maria take Caroline.' 

' Maria is going to look after you. It's you, my 
young friend, we want to get out of the house to- 
night. There has been some mistake in your bring- 
ing up, it seems, and Patty's had enough of you. 
Come now, take it easy. We aren't going to be 
hard upon you, but out you must go.' 

' John ! John ! ' exclaimed ISTannie, passionately, 
' have you heard about me then ? I meant to tell 
father myself 1 Don't turn me out like a vagabond, 



240 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

John ! ' The young man started and seized her 
arm. Was this a confession ? He stared at her, 
and Nannie's colour changed from pale to scarlet 
and back to white again. 

' Is it true then, child ? Good God ! ' 

' Don't turn me out like a vagabond, John,' re- 
peated Nannie. 'It wasn't my fault ! I will go; 
but don't hunt me away to-night ! Can't you bear 
me one day more for old time's sake ? ' pleaded 
Nannie, easily agitated in her weakness. John 
dropped her wrist and sank back in the chair. His 
heart had died within him. He had a great affec- 
tion for this sister of his. 

' I will put a bullet in that villain,' he said to 
himself. 

' Nan, I promise we'll do the best we can for 
you. We won't be hard on you, my girl. I ain't 
come up to row you to-night anyhow. That'll mend 
nothing. But for father's sake, you must do as I 
bid you. I don't want his deathbed made uneasy 
by any disgrace, and the safest way to have no 
more of that is to get you away this moment. 
Come now,' impatiently, ' don't be an obstinate baby 
and haggle over three farthings, when the difference 
in our accounts is a thousand pounds.' Nannie 
was overwhelmed by finding the mistake in her 
parentage viewed in such a very serious light. Now 
they were slipping from her, she felt a great clinging 



EVIL NEWS RIDES POST 241 

affection for these homely, yet pretentious people 
whose ways had often irritated her. 

' John, did you say his deathbed ? ' she said, 
with quivering lips, her eyes raised pleadingly to 
her brother's. He nodded. 

* He'll never get up again, poor old Governor,' 
said he ; and then his feelings, getting the better 
of him, he exclaimed, angrily, ' It'll finish him off 
when he learns how you have served liim, miss.' 

* Oh, John, you are unkind ! ' cried Nannie, ' when 
it was none of my doing, and I have all the suf- 
fering ! ' 

' If you are going to take that tone, and hold 
yourself up to pity — well, come, that's neither 
here nor there, to-night anyhow. And as it is all 
his fault in your opinion, you hussy, you'll be 
pleased to hear I mean to have it out with him, 
d — d scoundrel, and make him smart for it 
too.' And then John bit his Lip and muttered 
under his breath, ' A confounded stupid thing that 
is to say to her.' 

' What are you talking about ? ' exclaimed 
Nannie, suddenly, starting back from him, flushed 
and panting, her eyes dilating. ' A scoundrel ? 
Who is a scoundrel ? ' 

' Don't be a fool, Nan. Don't bandy words 
with me. The sooner you confess he's a scoundrel, 
the better. Go and dress.' 

VOL. II 35 



242 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

'I won't dress. I must know what you mean/ 
said N"annie, shaking his sleeve. John looked at 
her and felt a revival of hope. 

' What were you talking about ? ' he asked, 
roughly drawing her to him. 

' About Aunt Emma ! About my not being 
your own sister ! Oh, John, I didn't think you'd 
want to turn me out all of a minute for 
that ! ' 

' I can't attend to that sort of infernal nonsense 
now,' said John. ' I want to know about Sir Vin- 
cent Leicester ! ' 

' What about Sir Vincent Leicester ? ' said 
Nannie, throwing up her head. 

' What have you to do with Sir Vincent Lei- 
cester ? ' 

' Nothing ! There ! ' cried Nannie, shaking his 
hand off, and standing before him with scarlet cheeks 
and blazing eyes. 

' Nothing ? Do you mean to lie then, miss ? ' 
shouted John. 

' I never lied in my life ! ' said Nannie. 

' I am a fool to lose my temper,' he said to him- 
self, and addressed her more quietly. ' You were 
for confessing a minute ago, Nan. And we have 
other information. Be careful now. Do you deny 
that that bla — , that man has made love to 
you?' 



EVIL NEWS RIDES POST 243 

Nannie sickened under this manner of question. 
Wliat a distance must be between her and Sir 
Vincent when their love seemed necessarily to 
every one dishonest love ! She answered firmly, 
meeting her brother's eye, ' Sir Vincent has never 
said one word to me as wasn't right — not one w^ord 
as couldn't be repeated to you or to any one. Yes, 
John, in the sense that you mean, I do deny that he 
has made love to me.' 

' I won't have it in any sense,' said John. ' But 
come now, Xan, I breathe freer. You Q;ave me a 
fine fright, you did. Though I couldn't believe my 
own ears that you had gone astray.' He put his 
hands on her shoulders and kissed her aftection- 
ately. ' You must forsjive me if I was too hot, 
Nannie. You put me on the WTong scent somehow, 
and I say I was in a blue funk.' 

' You are very kind, John,' said Xannie, with a 
lump in her throat. 

' That's a good lass. AVe'll have the details 
another time. Now I'll go and see for your supper 
and you make haste and get ready for the 
journey.' 

' Oh, John,' said Xannie, ' I am very sorry to 
annoy .you, but I cannot go to-night. You mustn't 
ask it.' 

' Why not ? ' 

' I — I'm tired.' 



244 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

' Can't help that.' They were silent for a few 
minutes, looking at each other. 

' You have an appointment for to-morrow, may- 
be ? ' 

'Yes!' 

' Very good. I will keep it for you. Tell me 
the time and place. I shall have great pleasure in 
meeting that most virtuous young gentleman for 
you.' 

' John, you are insulting. It is not with him. 
I don't have appointments with him. I mean — not 
now.' 

' Not now, indeed ! AYho is it with, pray ? ' 

' Alick.' 

' Alick ? ' John blew a long whistle. ' I don't 
believe it. You are trying to take me in. I see 
through you, miss.' 

' I have told you the simple truth.' 

'Alick Eandle, you say? Now look here, 
Nannie, I am beginning to distrust you altogether. 
Do you mean to say you are carrying on with both 
these men at once ? ' 

' I am not carrying on with anybody. I don't 
know what it means.' 

' You seem to think me a fool, my dear,. Are 
you engaged to Alick Handle ? ' 

' Certainly not.' 

' Have you any engagement with t'other chap ? ' 



EVIL NEWS RIDES POST 245 

* No.' Nannie reddened. She felt the little ring 
burning her throat. But yes, she was speaking the 
truth ; only not the whole truth. That was her pro- 
perty; why should she allow any one to steal it ? 

' With any one ? ' 

'No.' 

' Then you sha'n't be making secret appointments 
with young men. You shall go to Faverton.' 

' John, I have had a letter from Alick. I must 
see him.' 

' Show me the letter.' She obeyed. 

' You are a nice girl to be having letters in that 
vein from Alick, while you are making appointments 
— not now of course — with Sir Vincent Leicester.' 

' Alick knows about Sir Vincent' 

' Indeed. Then he is not a proper companion 
for you. This is waste of time, miss. You go to 
Faverton.' 

' John, I will come to-morrow at eleven ; at ten 
if you wish. There is no necessity for me to go 
to-night.' 

' There is necessity, because we are simple people 
not up to dodges. You may be meditating an 
elopement with your sweetheart to-night, my dear. 
Your refusal to go means something, and I intend 
to have my own way.' 

' I give you my word I only want to see Alick. 
I am frightened about Alick. I ' 



246 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

' I don't choose you to see Alick in this way. You 
have made me suspicious of him. I won't have you 
compromising yourself with him or with any one.' 

' Compromising myself ? ' 

' Yes. I'll tell you this much about Alick. I 
understand he wishes to marry you ? ' 

' Yes, John, but ' 

'Very well. If you go meeting him in private 
places at uncommon hours on secret business, you'll 
have to marry him whether you wish it or not. Are 
you prepared for that ? ' 

' I am not going to marry Alick.' 

' Then you go to Faverton to-night.' He left her, 
turning the key on the outside. 

Nannie's pride rose at this, and she opened the 
window and actually considered the possibility of 
jumping out. It was far too high. 

' Besides, there is no good in being naughty I she 
said to herself. ' Oh dear ! John is like father ! — 
so very obstinate. I suppose I must go. But oh, 
what will my lover think of me to run away like 
this, without one word of any sort to him, or waiting 
to see if he wishes to speak to me ! ' She moved 
about dressing herself; presently sat down and 
wrote to her cousin. 

' My pooe dear Alick ! — Of course I forgive you. 
I only wish I could do all you want. / cant, but I 



EVIL NEWS RIDES POST 247 

will help you all I can. I was determined to come 
to you to-morrow morning as you ask, but John won't 
let me. He has carried me off. You had better tell 
him as much as you can, and Sir Vincent too, and 
then come and speak to me at Faverton. — Xaxxie. 

' Dear Alick, don't despair. God is always good 
even when we aren't. I want to see you so.' 



CHAPTER IX 

* Well, well ! ' cried Patty and Maria, as John 
came down, having resumed his jaunty air. He 
described jokingly his contest with iSTannie. 

' Do you mean there is nothing ? ' cried Patty ; 
' I thought not. I couldn't believe it of Nan.' 
John shrugged his shoulders. 

' There is something. But as far as I can make 
out, not enough yet to make a regular row about. 
She don't come back here again, that's all. You 
must worm the truth out of her, Mrs. Pi ' 



' He can follow her to Faverton ! ' said Patty. 

' He can't do it to-day, anyhow, and she needn't 
stay at Faverton. But he won't follow her. Out 
of sight, out of mind, you know.' 

' I didn't find I got rid of you that way, John,' 
said Mrs. Maria. 



248 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

'Because I was myself/ said the husband, com- 
placently, 'and this chap, you'll find, is himself 
Easy pleased and good at forgetting. That's the 
characteristic of swells according to my experience. 
That was Sir Charles all over, in more than his 
sweetheartings which came about before my time.' 

' But I don't think Sir Vincent is like that,' said 
Patty ; ' father always says he forgets nothing.' 

' I'll bet you a thousand pounds I teach him to 
forget Nannie,' said John. Maria suggested that 
if no more were in it than this, the journey might 
be deferred ; but her husband was inexorable, and 
alluded to Alick. 

' She's entangled pretty fast there, I suspect. I 
never took to that hunchy for a pretty girl like her.' 

' Nor I,' said the lamentable Patty again, ' and 
she always says she don't want him. Father's 
been putting his foot in it, driving her too hard. 
But that Alick seems to have some hold over her 
too. I've told father times and times they weren't 
keeping company in a proper way, and he wouldn't 
see it. It's time it was put a stop to. I've always 
had my doubts about preachers,' said Patty ; ' they 
never seem countable like respectable men.' 

' Seems to me,' interposed Joe, ' that Alick's put 
himself out of the running by losing his wits. He 
looked downright silly this afternoon.' 

' Had a glass of beer maybe,' said John. ' Joe's 



EVIL NEWS RIDES POST 249 

blue ribbon prevents his knowing what a glass of 
beer looks like, or the man who has swallowed it. 
Give me some, old lady,' to his sister ; ' I shall want 
strength to carry the rebellions woman to the train.' 

Presently he and his wife went upstairs for 
Xannie. She was ready, making no further objec- 
tion. She handed her brother the note for Alick. 
' You'll give it to him, John ? You'll go out at six 
and give it to him and talk to him ? ' 

' I'll talk to him,' said the brother, taking the 
note. ' I shall read it, Nan.' 

' If you must I can't help it. But promise to 
give it yourself, John.' He winked at his wife and 
promised. Much relieved by the girl's submission, 
John was jocular as they drove along. 

' Maria's the girl for a pattern,' he said ; 'I've 
heard folk say I'm henpecked. Well, I admit I let 
her get the tickets, while I sit on the boxes. She 
spares me the trouble. It depends on the hen. If 
it's a good hen, a peck is a pleasure ; ain't it, Mrs. 

E ? Don't I say so whenever you draw blood, 

my girl ? ' 

Nannie heard one word in ten. She was wishing 
she could explain her fears about Alick to her 
brother. John belonged to the class of persons who 
are sceptical as to anything being in the least 
unusual, particularly when reported by a woman. 
' Mares' nests aren't in my line,' he would say, con- 



250 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

temptuously, and it required to know John well 
before you were sure that he did not apply the 
epithet indiscriminately. Nannie was afraid to 
suggest her fears about Alick. Her brother would 
only sneer at him for a Methody. 

' I should have to tell him exactly what hap- 
pened to make him believe there was anything in 
it,' said IsTannie, her cheeks burning at the very idea 
of confessing to Alick's unwelcome kisses, ' and then 
he would think too much of it. He would think 
badly of him and very likely of me too. And 
after all I think now perhaps I was too frightened 
and am exaggerating. Alick lost his temper — 
just rather worse than usual, because he was 
upset by the accident ; and so was I upset, and I 
worried Alick, and then I got into a fright. Oh, 
it would be cruel to tell all that of Alick to people 
who don't understand him.' So she only repeated, 
' Do, please, John, be very sure to see Alick, and 
to notice him as much as you can. Indeed, I have 
a reason.' They were the first words she had 
spoken ; but John thought he might speak to her 
now. 

' What was that rubbish you were talking, Nan, 
about — I swear I don't know what it was about ! ' 
Nannie changed colour and was silent. Oh, why 
was Fate so unkind to her ! ' You had better not 
talk that fashion to other folk, if you have a right 



EVIL NEWS RIDES POST 251 

to a character. Come now, no more cross purposes. 
Out with it.' Poor Nannie tried to answer. 

' I meant to tell father first. Oh, John, it is 
such a dreadful thing ! ' She got it out at last, poor 
child, with the bitter cry of one opening the flood- 
gates to desolation. ' I am not your sister at all ! 
I am ^lary Smith ! ' 

' Who the devil has told you such nonsense ? ' said 
John, with a fine show of scepticism. But he raked 
up a number of trifles in his memory with an in- 
stinctive feeling that this was not at once to be 
labelled a mare's nest. Nannie had to describe how 
she acquired the information. 

' A gentleman up at the Heights told me first. 

He ' John took her wrist and held it slightly 

twisted with a pressure which hurt her. 

'Now look here, Nan. From this day forward 
you have nothing to do with any gentleman up at 
the Heights, nor with any gentleman whatever. 
You seem to have been under some delusion about 
your place, my good girl.' 

Nannie took her hand away, disdaining to notice 
the hurt either to her wrist or to her dignity. She 
told all she knew, and about Mrs. Bryant also, with 
sorrow and bitterness. ' Oh, John, John, don't be 
angry with me ! It isn't my fault, and I never knew 
till to-day. Don't be angry with me ! ' She wept. 

' My eye ! ' said John, ' quench the waterworks 



252 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

then. I don't believe a word of it, for my part. 
Don't you go spreading the story now until I've 
ascertained if there is anything in it.' 

' Oh, do you think perhaps it isn't true ? ' said 
Nannie, with reviving hope. 

John Eandle was made of sterling stuff, but 
delicacy of speech or sentiment was not in his line. 
' Cheer up, Nan,' he said. ' I sha'n't believe it 
without I'm forced to. But if that sort of business 
runs in the blood, you have the more need of a 
brother to lock you up, miss. Lord, now what 
humbugs some folks are ! Mrs. Bryant ! I tell you 
what, there'll be a jolly row if the upper crust find 
her out.' 

'It looks to me uncommonly as if they knew 
more about it this time than we,' said Maria sig- 
nificantly, pointing to the weeping girl's delicately 
shaped hand nestled pleadingly into his. ' Tell us 
more about the gentleman, Nan.' 

' No, no, don't put that into her head,' interrupted 
the husband quickly. ' Nan, don't cry like a baby. 
It shall make no difference to you anyhow. If there 
is anything in it at all, take my word for it, the 
Governor knows all about it. If he adopted you for 
his daughter. Nan, I guess it ain't for me to interfere 
with him.' 

' It's the most wicked conduct I ever heard of ! ' 
exclaimed Maria. 



EVIL NEWS RIDES POST 253 

John shrugged his shoulders. ' I don't know — 
under some circumstances. But look here, Nannie. 
It's not the kind of job I should fancy doing for my 
sister, so look out you never get into the position to 
require it.' 

' If ever I am in such a position, you can re- 
member I am not your sister,' said JSTannie, haughtily. 

' Hullo ! Here's the train. You are my sister, 
Nan, to all intents and purposes, and I shall treat 
you as such anyway, whether you disgrace us all or 
not. You must remember that, my dear, whatever 
trouble you get into.' John spoke with emphasis 
and Nannie was touched. 

' Oh, John, you are very kind to me. But it 
hurts me to have you think I ever could disgrace 
you. You may trust me, for I could not bear to 
disgrace myself, no — nor him,' said Nannie, softly. 

Both John and his wife thought it very im- 
proper of her to allude to him at all. But for the 
present their game was truce. 



PART YIII 
DOUBTING CASTLE 



CHAPTER I 

'The cause of your anxiety/ wrote Mr. Bryant to 
Lady Katharine, ' has been removed from EverwelL' 
The letter was about Xannie — a young woman who 
from the first had inspired him ' with a grave dis- 
trust ' — and about Alick, whose flight left no doubt 
on the clerg}^man's mind 'that Sunday's catastrophe 
was largely of his contrivance.' There were also a 
few words of Georgina, who had gone with Mrs. 
Bryant to Scarborough for a week. ' The dear child 
was most anxious that her impulsive conduct on 
Sunday afternoon should not be misunderstood.' 

Mr. Bryant did not send the letter without hesi- 
tation. There were sentences in it which he was 
aware would create a bad impression if ever ' the 
whole truth came to light.' But he had at present 
no reason to suppose that the whole truth would 
ever come to light, for fortune favoured him, and 
his foes were disappearing. Ben Eandle was on 
his deathbed ; Emma was foolish but docile ; Ann 
Leach had informed him that she had heart-disease, 
VOL. II 36 



258 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

and might pop off at any moment. Though it was 
only in her cups that Mrs. Leach forgot which side 
her bread was buttered, and she had signed the 
pledge, Mr. Bryant felt a great wish that she would 
pop off; for living over even an extinct volcano is 
alarming. 'When we know where her son is/ re- 
flected the clergyman, ' she shall be induced to join 
him. Shall I be thought ill of for ousting all these 
my relations-in-law ? No, because I have really not 
ousted them, and for a man in my position to feel 
a little gi,ne at their propinquity is neither unnatural 
nor ungentlemanly. My chief difficulty at this 
moment is with Vincent. I fear Georgie has tried 
altogether too high a hand with him.' Mr. Bryant 
sighed. He was selecting hymns for Sunday, and 
his eye fell on this, one of the gems embedded in 
the gravel of most modern collections — 

What peaceful hours I once enjoyed ! 

How sweet their memory still ! 
But they have left an aching void 

The world can never fill. 

Return, holy Dove ! return, 

Sweet messenger of rest ! 
I hate the sins that made Thee mourn, 

And drove Thee from my breast. 



He sighed, hastily turning the leaves to a hymn 

h less meaning. 

Lady Katharine, a few days later, reading Mr. 



DOUBTING CASTLE 259 

Bryant's letter to her son, naturally omitted the 
part concerning Xannie. Vincent was up and about 
again, but with a sprain and an inclination to 
silence. His mother was taking great delight in 
coddling him. ' A\Tiat's all the rest of the letter ? ' 
he asked, bluntly ; and Lady Katharine stupidly 
coloured, and said vaguely, it was about a — a young 
person in the \illage, in whom Mr. Bryant took an 
interest. Vincent remained a long time in what had, 
during these few days, become a habitual attitude 
with him ; his hands behind his head, and thought- 
ful eyes fixed vacantly on the distant horizon line 
of the purple sea. His anxious mother would have 
given the world to be sure what he was thinking 
about. She hoped it was Georgina ; but felt nearly 
stifled by a dread that it might be Nannie. 

At the present moment Vincent was thinking 
of Alick. His compassion was stirred on the fallen 
prophet's behalf. For Alick's sake, scarcely less 
than for his own and Nannie's, Vincent was resolved 
to end his own undecided relation to the girl the 
very first moment he could get an opportunity of 
speaking to her. For it was horrible to feel that 
Nannie was dealing unfairly with any one, and 
Vincent did feel it. She was allowing two men, 
each in his own way, to make love to her at once ; 
and she was encouraging them both. Since his last 
talk with Nannie, Vincent had spoken to Alick, and 



26o MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

he saw that the prophet, confident of winning 
the girl, was staking his very all on success, 
and was quite unaware that Nannie was accepting 
kisses from his rival. Vincent had not, of course, 
enlightened him ; he felt, even a little indignantly, 
that Nannie must do so, and the sooner the better. 
But a fortnight had passed since the lovers had had 
opportunity of speech together, and Vincent could 
not but think, and with sinking of the heart, that 
their next conference would not find them exactly 
in the same position to each other as their last 

' But at any rate,' said Vincent, ' we will be 
honest with ourselves and with each other, and with 
other people. Nannie must make her decision.' 
No wonder his look was often troubled as he gazed 
vacantly at the sea. 

However, at this moment his thoughts were 
chiefly of Alick, and compassionate ones. ' In 
the first place,' he said, slowly, 'it is not the 
case that Alick confessed, and I do not believe he 
had one thing to do with the accident. He never 
set up to be a Samson. It is most uncalled for 
in Bryant to circulate such an accusation.' 

' I cannot help thinking, dear,' replied Lady 
Katharine, ' that you have grown lately a little 
captious about Mr. Bryant.' Gaining no denial, she 
improved the occasion. ' Dear Mr. Bryant's most 
ill-judged marriage has prejudiced you against him.' 



DOUBTING CASTLE 261 

' Not at all; said Vincent, sulkily ; he had begun 
to dislike speaking of the clergyman. 

'I have learned a few particulars about his 
marriage. It is a warning, I am sure, to any one 
against being taken in by — a pretty face and that 
kind of thing.' Vincent's eyes came down from the 
horizon to his mother's countenance. He fancied 
that he had detected an allusion. 'Mr. Bryant's 
future wife was governess or something in a family 
of position when he, the curate, fell in love with 
her. It seems she was a widow ; very young ; 
pathetic she would appear to a young man like 
Mr. Bryant, widowed also.' Lady Katharine sighed 
and paused, remembering her own widowhood. 
' Yes, it would be pathetic of course. He had no 
conception, I gather, of what very humble origin 
this Mrs. Grant was, till he had engaged himself 
too far to draw back. At least, I suppose he 
thought so then. 

'Who told you all this, mother ?' 

'Dearest Georgina. I admit I questioned her, 
sweet girl.' Vincent's eyes went back to the purple 
sea line. 

'You shouldn't, my dear mother, discuss these 
delicate matters ; for either you'll drive Georgina 
into a corner where she'll be drawing on her im- 
agination for her facts, or you'll be finding out some- 
thing you don't want to know ; perhaps, that Bryant 



262 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

did not so much marry beneath him in his second 
nuptials as above him in his first.' 

' My dear boy ! Why, he belongs to the 
Bryants of Norfolk ! ' 

' That is an unproved statement if you like. 
Why need we discuss it ? It is of no consequence 
to me if he is the son of a reigning prince or of a 
railway porter. He's the parson ; that's enough. 
And Mrs. Bryant is his wife. I don't care two 
straws if she was a governess, or a widow either. 
I hadn't gathered the information from Bryant, but 
what does it matter ? May I ask, mother, while 
we are on this subject, what Georgina Bryant was 
doing in this house on Sunday ? ' Lady Katharine, 
aware of an indiscretion, answered rather fussily — 

' Vincent, love, you were so pleased to see her.' 
The son frowned. 

' Was I ? I am sorry I gave you that impres- 
sion. I did not make out who she was for a long 
time ; and when I discovered, I was not pleased at 
all. I was excessively annoyed.' 

' But, dearest, it was not Georgie's doing. It was 
mine.' 

' Then it was curiously ill-judged of you, mother. 
It was calculated to suggest to her family, to the 
servants, and to the whole place, that Miss Bryant 
and I are a great deal more intimate than either of 
us intend ever to become.' 



DOUBTING CASTLE 263 

' I — don't altogether understand your intentions, 
dear ; but Georgina * 

* I presume my intentions are the ones to be 
consulted/ said Vincent. 

The timid, conscientious woman was greatly 
alarmed. Could he possibly be dreaming of marry- 
ing I^annie ! ' My dear son, you must let me 
speak. I really do think in making your intentions 
you are bound in honour to consider — I cannot 
believe you one of those selfish, heartless, vain 
young men' (signs of impatience, but she per- 
severed) ' who use their admitted right to take the 
initiative in these things, quite to the disregard of 

a lady's ' Vincent swung his legs off the sofa 

and faced his mother alarmingly — 

' I am tired of these general truths. We had 
better speak plainly. Mother, you seem to think I 
am going to marry Miss Bryant. Well, I am not, 
as I explained to you already. You can tell her so, 
if you aren't afraid of hurting her feelings.' 

' Vincent, you — you quite astonish me !' said the 
poor lady ; ' you told me yourself that you intended 
to marry her.' 

' No — I never spoke positively. I did tell you 
most distinctly that I had changed my mind.' 
Tears filled Lady Katharine's eyes ; but anxiety 
would not let her drop the subject. She tried 



264 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

' When a young man has deliberately encouraged 
a lady to exhibit a preference for himself ' 

' Pray let us drop the hypothetical young man. 
Subsequent to one insane and happily rejected 
proposal, at a time when I neither knew Miss 
Bryant's character nor had reflected that character 
was of importance in a wife, I never encouraged 
Georgina to " exhibit " one atom of " preference." ' 

'Dear Vincent, you may say you have been 
misunderstood, but it is unquestionable that you — 
gave an impression to a number of persons, and to 
dear Georgie herself who is most important of 
all' 

' Are you sure it was not Georgina who gave the 
impression ? ' said Vincent ; but his mother did not 
hear, and he restrained himself and kept silence. 

' You know, dear, the mere fact of going out of 
your way to bring the Bryants here was calculated 
to give the impression to any one aware of your 
previous attentions. I am certain Georgie thought 
so. And then there was cordiality in your manner. 
She felt herself justified — I consider she was justified 
— in so far exhibiting a preference as to show she 
would accept a second offer. I only mean, dear,' 
continued the gentle lady, frightened and confused, 
'that it is not — the sort of conduct your dear 
father would have approved, that you should de- 
liberately insult Georgina by directing attention to 



DOUBTING CASTLE 265 

your admiration for her, in order that you might 
publicly withdraw from it.' 

' Mother/ said Vincent, ' I would not submit to 
such expressions from any one but you, and I must 
request you not to repeat them.' 

Lady Katharine put her handkerchief to her 
eyes, convinced by her son's composed indignation 
that she had said quite the wrong thing. It was 
the result, she believed, of an endeavour to please him 
by plain speaking ; but she was altogether mistaken. 
She had said the wrong thing because she was 
dealing insincerely, and was endeavouring to gain 
her point by arguments that had no force even with 
herself. The real argument she was afraid to pro- 
duce. There was a brief silence, and Vincent was 
moved by her penitence. 

'Mother, I will admit that Bryant has not 
proved an altogether happy selection, and I will 
admit that in the earlier stages of my acquaintance 
with Georgina I made mistakes. But we 'mustn't 
have any more misunderstandings. You don't want 
me to confirm my previous blunders by a greater 
and a deliberate one ; and I shall not marry a 
woman I do not love, because other people expect 
me to do so, or because it is asserted that by with- 
drawing my pretensions I am deliberately insulting 
a lady with whom I never had one moment's engage- 
ment.' 



266 MR. BR Y ant's MISTAKE 

'Vincent, dear, I did not mean that !' 

' No, I am sure you did not. But do you un- 
derstand me now ? As for Georgina, she has no 
claim on me for so much as an explanation. Now 
we have said enough about that. I want to know 
about Alick. Did you say he had fled ? Show me 
Bryant's letter.' Vincent had been restive under 
rather much nursing, and a supposition that because 
he had strained his back, he was unable to eat 
butter for breakfast or to read to himself He put 
out his hand and took the letter before Lady 
Katharine had the presence of mind to stop 
him. 

' Vincent ! no, no, dear I I — there is something 
in it I do not want you to read. Do pray give it 
back.' 

' I beg your pardon, mother.' He returned it at 
once, but his eye had unintentionally lighted upon 
his own name, and lower down the words, ' Nannie's 
misconduct.' He reflected for a moment, frowning ; 
and began to see through Lady Katharine's advocacy 
of the clergyman's daughter. ' Will you order the 
carriage, mother,' he said, ' and come out with me ? 
I must learn particulars about Alick, and in the 
first instance I shall apply for them to Nannie 
BandUl said Vincent, dwelling on the girl's name. 

' Vincent, you — you surprise me ! ' stammered 
the widow, aghast. 



DOUBTING CASTLE 267 

' I have other matters upon which to speak to 
Nannie also,' he continued. 

' But she — she has been sent away. And her 
father is dying ' 

'Who has sent her away?' interrupted the son, 
sharply. 

' Nannie Eandle, Vincent ? She has indeed. 
Mr. Bryant says so.' 

' I must see that letter, mother,' said Vincent, 
after a pause. 

' Indeed, love, I do not wish it.' 

' Is there anything offensive to Miss Eandle iu 
it?' 

' No — 0.' Lady Katharine hesitated. 

' Are you sure ? Or to me ? ' 

' Vincent, by your questions you admit that ' 

' I understand enough of the contents of that 
letter to beg you to burn it, mother; now, in my 
presence. Miss Handle's name is not to be con- 
nected with mine, until she and I have given our 
consent. You can form your own inferences, 
mother ; but you had better take care, for I shall 
not easily forgive you, if I find you have formed 
wrong ones.' 

Vincent stood by the window, thinking gloomily 
that here was a fresh shadow fallen over the 
sunshine of his love. Presently he became aware 
that his dear mother was in tears ; the reason 



268 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

was not far to seek. He knelt by her chair and 
put his arm round her, to her unspeakable consola- 
tion. 

* Mother, the time has perhaps come when, in 
Nannie's interest, explanation is advisable. But I 
must see her first. This evening, to-morrow, within 
a day or two, you shall, I promise you, learn all. 
Till then, dear mother, I must ask from you silence, 
and especially to other people. Will you remember 
one thing,' he went on, speaking slowly, in a low 
tone of deep feeling, * will you remember, my 
dearest mother, that I shall never feel anything but 
the keenest regret if I have to occasion you dis- 
appointment, or at any time the smallest unhappi- 
ness ? ' Vincent was an essentially sincere person, as 
all who knew him were quick to feel. He so seldom 
spoke in the tone of his last sentence that when it 
came it was doubly impressive. Lady Katharine 
embraced him tearfully, and could venture no re- 
monstrance, at least for to-day. 

' Oh, if only his dear father were alive ! ' mourned 
the helpless widow, wringing her hands. 



CHAPTEE IT 

Vincent hurried to the Farm, cursing his week's 
captivity, when dear Nannie was in difficulties. 



DOUBTING CASTLE 269 

' Oh, my sweet darling ! ' he said to himself, ' why 
did she not call me ? Perhaps she did. Perhaps 
she did ! and these busybodies would not allow me 
to hear her. The cowards ! to fall upon tier I I 
am certain Bryant is at the bottom of it. He has 
made a tool of my rhother. Well, I must leave 
no stone unturned to set Nannie right at once. 
Even if I have lost her ! Good heavens ! what a 
thought ! I will not exist another day without 
seeing her.' 

For Vincent's uneasiness grew apace. It had, 
a fortnight ago, been a shock to the lover to find 
Nannie accepting a different view from his own 
of the possibilities of her relation to Alick, nay, 
clinging to it, notwithstanding his emphatically 
expressed warning and displeasure. He knew 
that Nannie had been daily with her cousin during 
the week preceding the accident at the church, 
and he had been unable to lay the suspicion 
that she was avoiding himself. Was she slipping 
away from him ? Would their next meeting be to 
say good-bye ? Hateful, intolerable thought ! not 
merely because he loved her, and more than of old, 
but because he could not contemplate the idea of 
parting now without an agitating self-blame. For 
he had decoyed Nannie into a degree of * levering ' 
justifiable only on the grounds that they were 
practically betrothed, and it was long since he had 



270 MR. Bryant's mistake 

himself taken any other view of their relationship. 
To be obliged to reopen the question, to admit the 
possibility that she might abandon him, was horrible. 
To lose her ; to fear that he had harmed her, if 
ever so little ; and to feel that though not distinctly 
blamable, still the actual Nannie was not precisely 
the delicate, scrupulous, and wholly trustworthy 
Nannie his imagination had believed — Vincent 
could not face the dread possibility. Once in her 
presence, his fears would be smiled away. 

Yet there was the vague alarm, the undeveloped 
remorse in his heart, joined now to a sickening 
sense that other people had intervened with their 
murdering touch. He hurried to her home, for the 
first time openly, — ' to put her right,' even if he had 
lost her. ' Heaven forbid it I Oh, my treasure, we 
had better never have seen each other than be parted 
now ! But no, for my own sake I cannot wish 
that,' said Vincent, who was not introspective, nor 
prone to serious reflection except as a direct incen- 
tive to action, yet who had a dim understanding 
that Nannie's lover, as compared with the some- 
time admirer of the unprincipled Georgina Bryant, 
breathed in a purer atmosphere, and had somehow 
unconsciously raised the ideals of his life. 

' Well, sir,' said John, ' it's time you did step 
forward, for there have been remarks made about 
you and Nannie, and it's a question with me if she 



DOUBTING CASTLE 271 

will ever recover from the mischief you have done 
her.' Vincent flushed, for the words fell in all too 
well with the train of his own thoughts. He had 
reached the Farm at an unfortunate moment, for Mr. 
Eandle had died in the early morning, and confusion 
and agitation reigned. John, however, looked much 
as usual in the rather loud costume which gave the 
gentleman an immediate feeling that of all men in 
the world he would not have picked out this one for 
a brother-in-law. John came promptly to interview 
the visitor, and opened the talk with an air of 
bluster which marked a fixed determination to 
quarrel. 

' You will gain nothing by that tone,' said 
Vincent very quietly, however ; and John, to his 
own surprise, found himself presently talking the 
matter over quite calmly, and by force of simple 
sincerity on both sides, arriving at a sort of warlike 
understanding with the enemy, and even conceiving 
an unwilling liking for him, which was not un- 
returned. 

' I cannot think,' said Vincent, ' that you have 
acted judiciously in sending Nannie away. She 
had far better return at once and face boldly any 
gossip or misapprehension which may have arisen. 
When it is known that she is to be my wife, 
surprise will cease at our having required some 
previous intimate acquaintance.' 



272 MR. BRYAISfT S MISTAKE 

' You take it as a settled thing, sir ? That is 
not what my sister told me.' 

Vincent's heart beat, and he resisted a strong 
temptation to exaggerate his success. 

' At least, Mr. Eandle, Nannie's decision can't 
be postponed any longer. You see now why I must 
speak to her at once.' 

' But I don't choose to have any more of this 
carrying on,' said John ; ' you may have acted 
perfectly square by my sister, sir, but it's a 
game there has been enough of. I know my duty 
to Nannie, and my duty to you and your family, 
too well to help on a match which would bring 
you into ridicule and my sister into mortification 
and scorn and disappointment.' Vincent was not 
enough inspired by this man in the spotted tie, who 
had not poor Alick's passionate eloquence, to utter 
any protestations. 

' I have not come here to argue,' he replied ; ' I 
have come to justify Nannie in every way, taking 
all the responsibilities of our present position upon 
myself. But I wish to inform you of my inten- 
tions. I shall see your sister at the earliest 
opportunity and learn her decision. Whatever 
it is I shall abide by it. Nannie and I have 
not carried our intercourse so far that she is 
not still at liberty to dismiss me from her ac- 
quaintance; but we have gone altogether too 



DOUBTING CASTLE 273 

far for me to accept dismissal from any one but 
from herself 

' Well, sir/ said John, ' I never was given to 
walking into traps with my eyes open. I want the 
thing left where it is, and if I can prevent your 
seeing Dannie to-day, or any other day, I'll do it.' 
And they parted. 

Mr. John telegraphed at once to his wife, for he 
had seen Vincent talking to j\Iolly, the stupid servant 
girl, who knew that Nannie had gone to Faverton. 
The telegram said, ' Mind your eye ; and shift 
your quarters,' and John was at ease, for he had 
arranged with his wife that ISTannie was to receive 
no visitors and write no unread letters, and that 
Faverton was to be her prison only so long as it 
was secure. 

But Vincent was so grateful for Molly's informa- 
tion that he gave her a gold piece ; and he went to 
Tanswick station and set off for Faverton at once, 
notwithstanding a strong desire for lunch, and a 
sense of great fatigue in his crippled back, which 
John had believed enough to keep him quiet for a 
day or two longer. Lady Katharine was in a state 
of agony about her son's health and everything 
else, when hour after hour passed and he did not 
return. 



VOL. II 37 



274 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 



CHAPTEE III 

' For goodness' sake, John/ cried the distracted 
Patty, ' tell us what you said to him.' 

' How you do go on,' said her brother, irritably. 
'Did you suppose I was going to quarrel with the 
swell in his own house, with the Governor waiting 
upstairs for his coffin ? (John, as observed above, 
had gone downstairs to Sir Vincent with every in- 
tention of quarrelling, and pretty noisily.) 

' How could you liel'p quarrelling with him V said 
Patty, lachrymosely; * it isn't nice of you, John, to be 
for smoothing it over because, poor father being gone, 
it's a matter for you to keep straight with Sir Vin- 
cent, and get liberal terms out of him.' 

' Eight you are,' said John. ' I always keep an 
eye to business.' He expressed admiration of Sir 
Vincent ; ' A chap who keeps his temper, and could 
set a man down if he chose, and who don't say 
no more nor he means on any subject.' 

' Well I never ! ' cried Patty, holding up her 
hands ; ' just fancy if one came to being own sister 
to my Lady Leicester ! ' 

'Don't be an idiot. In the first place, a nice 
dance we'd all be in if we brought that on. In 
the second, it would never come off. In the third. 



DOUBTING CASTLE 275 

it ain't desirable. We're as good as he, but the 
way to show we think so is by keeping our own line 
and not trying to get into his, like we admired it. 
Just teach Caroline that, will you ? She's too fond 
of running after ladies and aping them. It's a mean 
spirit. Equality will never come that way. It's 
levelling down we want, not levelling up. I don't 
want young Leicester's silk hat, bless him, and Latin, 
and stupid Sir before his name. Little things 
amuse little minds. While he's got 'em, I'll make 
him my bow, like I do to Johnny playing a king. 
But I won't own none of these gents for comrades 
till I see 'em earning their bread like I do, and dis- 
tributing their money, and using their leisure for 
something more productive than filling girls' heads 
with gimcracks. Look here now — I'd a deal 
sooner have married a lady myself I'd have 
brought my wife down to her proper place, and 
there'd have been something gained. But if you 
girls get marrying men above you, you alter nothing. 
You leave your own sphere, and you never get a 
firm foot in the t'other. There's my views on 
socialism for you. You'll never see me, if I made a 
million, and had the biggest house in the country, 
trying to be a swell like Ned Bryant. He's not 

fish, flesh, nor fowl ; and as for his wife ' John 

paused. ' Come here, old lady, and I'll tell you 
what Ive heard about her. But I won't have 



276 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

Caroline told, nor Joe, mind you. Caroline's jealous 
of Nan and would be for castinej her off, and Joe 
would be getting sweet upon her. If you were as 
vain as Carry, you'd have taken her view, and if I 
wasn't tied fast already I might have been in Joe's 
danger ; there's no knowing. As it is, you and me 
have no dust in our eyes, and can see clear enough 
that Nan has just got to go on as before, and be 
one of the family, with us responsible for her. I 
don't mean to budge from that position whether she 
turns out well or ill, and if you don't back me up, 
I'll be angry with you.' 

' But is it true ? ' asked Patty, breathlessly, 
when she had heard about Mary Smith. 

' I bet you a hundred it's true, though I don't 
mean to act upon it or to admit it, if I can help. 
The man Kane writes to me that he has got to the 
bottom of it at last, and is prepared to show up the 
persons who are to blame. Those I take it were 
the Governor and his precious sister, but now the 
old man's going into his grave we none of us want 
to pry into the matter. I'm going up to the Heights 
to see that chap Kane this evening, and shut his 
mouth. Nannie's a deal better off without such as 
he meddling with her, and it can't be nothing but a 
whim on his part, of a piece with the rest.' 

' But if he can prove it ? ' said Patty. 

* I'll hear what he has to say ; but my advice to 



DOUBTING CASTLE 277 

him will be, " Let sleeping dogs lie." I'm not going 
to give up my sister, especially now when she's in a 
mess. Who'll see her out of it, I'd like to know, if 
it isn't her brothers and sisters ? Now hold your 
stupid jaw, do. Xannie she is and l^annie she 
shall remain, so long as it depends on John 
Eandle.' 

Meanwhile it happened that at Tanswick station 
Vincent, on his way to Faverton, was talking to the 
station-master in the recesses of the booking-office 
when the Scarborough train came in ; and out of it 
descended Mrs. Bryant and Georgina. The elder 
lady being in tears, looked even more homely 
than usual, and at the best of times she was never 
showy enough to be taken for so much as the 
beauty's maid. The vicarage pony chaise was late, 
and the ladies lingered by the door. 

' Ah, Georgie, if ever you'd lost a brother yourself 
you wouldn't be so cross,' said Emma. 

' If I had lost twenty brothers, I wouldn't make 
an exhibition of myself in a public place,' said 
Georgina, in a low, acid voice, which Vincent had not 
heard from her before. ' Oh, you needn't look to me 
for sympathy. The mere idea of your relations 
always gave me a sick headache. If you had any 
taste you would not parade your connection with 
them. Well, there is one comfort ; that disgraceful 
Nannie, who is so like you, is put out of the way. 



278 MR. BRYANT S^ MISTAKE 

Shall I make papa send you after her ? ' And she 
laughed. 

Vmcent emerged ; bowed coldly to Georgina, 
and handed Mrs. Bryant to her pony carriage, 
talking to her about her brother. 

' It's pleasant to hear any one speak kindly of 
him, I'm sure,' said the poor woman. Georgina 
boiled over with fury. She looked up at him 
tenderly with her fine eyes. 

* Vincent, don't think me a fidget. Are you all 
right again yourself ? You limp still ? And how 
dreadfully ill you were that Sunday ! ' And she 
looked down shyly and blushed. It required skill 
to act so nicely when she knew he was frowning at 
her. 

Georgina declared she had left a shawl in the 
station, and got him away with her on pretence of 
finding it. 

' Vincent,' said the girl, despairingly, ' you are 
angry with me. I see it. Have pity on me. It 
is difficult for me to remember — to realise that all 
is so changed between us.' Vincent was startled 
by the glow on Georgina's face and the tenderness 
in her speaking eyes. He might have been taken 
in, had he not overheard her remarks to the step- 
mother, to whom she spoke so charmingly in public. 
He seemed now to see the word ' Humbug ' written 
in flaming letters upon her brow. 



DOUBTING CASTLE 279 

' I really do not understand you, Georgina/ he 
said, with supreme awkwardness. Georgina was 
struggling with tears. 

'Oh, women, /<:a^7^/?fZ women — ' she paused, 'have 
a hard lot that they dare never for a moment show 
their hearts lest they be misinterpreted, and thought 

evil of by the very ones who ' She ended with 

a sort of sob and turned away. Vincent was as 
much embarrassed as any other young Briton who 
finds himself confessedly the wooed when he has 
only practised at wooing. His manners were not 
equal to the task of enduring this inversion of pre- 
rogative. 

' Why do you speak to me like this ? ' he said, 
bluntly ; ' it is uncalled for, and deceives neither of 
us.' 

' I have done with her after this, thank Heaven !' 
thought Vincent. 

' I have lost him,' thought Georgina. But she 
had plenty of poisoned arrows ready wherewith to 
cover her retreat. Only, unfortunately, his train 
came up before she had time to bend her bow ! and 
he unceremoniously left her standing on the plat- 
form. 

' He will not forget this,' said Georgina. ' It 
was my last card.' 

' Oh, don't bother ! ' So she addressed Mrs. 
Bryant, getting into the carriage, and taking the 



28o MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

reins away from her stepmother. ' I warn you I 
can't be patient. You and your horrid little niece 
between you have ruined my prospects by your 
vulgarity and presumption and improper conduct, 
and some day I shall pay you both out.' 

' Whatever do you mean, Georgie, dear ? ' whim- 
pered Emma. 



CHAPTEE IV 

' And I thought I loved that girl once ! ' said Vin- 
cent to himself ; ' it doesn't say much for my taste ! 
But now I am going to take stock of my position. 
Before I see my heart's treasure, I must be very 
clear what I am going to say to her. I have gone 
over it all a thousand times, but never practically. 
I have never come to the point, and said definitely 
to myself and to her, " We must marry, and that 
immediately ; " or, " We must part, at once and for 
ever." Before I say it, before I attempt the final 
persuasion (and jN'annie loves me well enough to 
feel weight in my persuasion), I must be very 
sure, even at the eleventh hour, that the direction 
I give her intentions is the one I do honestly 
believe to be the best. So now to my review of 
our position. I love her ; how much let the gods 
say, for I cannot. I loved her in a holiday humour 



DOUBTING CASTLE 281 

for lier beauty first ; but it is for far more than her 
mere bodily beauty that I love her now ! She loves 
me — wonderful but true ; and if we come together 
we shall be — for a time at least — so happy that 
one day will be as a thousand years, and no subse- 
quent suffering would be too high a price to pay for 
our one glorious day. Is that what I dare con- 
fidently to assert to my treasure to-day ? ' 

Vincent would have given anything to feel 
that perfect confidence ; but he did not. He had 
still a sense of risk ; some defined doubt of him- 
self ; a shadowy doubt of ISTannie ; and a re- 
collection of the detestable axiom that Love is 
blind. The wandering, tiresome thoughts ran on. 
' Nannie is not a lady ; and I unluckily am born 
a gentleman. No, I mustn't emigrate. My mother 
will not, I fear, be a very pleasant mother-in-law. 
That young man with the gaiters will be offensive 
as a brother-in-law. My marriage will be thought 
insane. I shall be laughed at, which I don't like ; 
and I shall be pitied, which I like less ; Nannie 
will have much snubbing to go through, and prob- 
ably will never attain to intimacy with ordinary 
gentlefolk, or to toleration by my noble relations. 
The point is. Do I care ? Couldn't I survive some 
laughing and pitying and snubbing and cutting and 
quenching ? Of course / could. But if it hurt 
lur .? 



282 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

' Still, if I can't get Nannie out of my head, what 
is to be done ? Heaven and earth ! Have I the 
smallest intention of even trying ? Now I know 
quite well what Henry Langton did, and what 
many sensible men would suggest, and what I 
remember I proposed to myself at one stage of 
the proceedings. A secret marriage seemed then 
a common -sense arrangement, presenting an easy 
solution of difficulties.' Vincent flushed all by 
himself in the railway carriage, and cast away 
that solution. ' I daresay scores of men have 
done it and not repented, but it would not suit 
me. I should be certain to wish I hadn't done it, 
when it came to telling my eldest son : " You are 
my heir, sir, and I cannot hide you if I wished it. 
My Nannie was very dear to me, and good enough 
to be my wife and your mother; but I did not 
think her good enough to sit at the head of my 
table ; and your grandmother doubted her taste in 
bonnets." What would my son think of me, I 
wonder, and my estimate of proportional values ? 
What would he think of his mother ? No, no ; if I 
cannot face the drawbacks of the position and pro- 
duce her openly to the world with all the honours 
that are her right, by Heaven, I will let her 
alone. 

' I suppose,' said Vincent with a sigh, ' that in 
some fifteen years' time it is just possible that I might 



DOUBTING CASTLE 283 

many some one else (not Georgma),and without being 
rapturous might find myself sufficiently comfortable. 
By that time Nannie would be wed to some builder 
or shopkeeeper (not Alick), and if we met in the 
street, we should each look the other way, for fear 
of remembering too much, and failing in our duty to 
some one else. It would be all right, I suppose ; 
only I don't fancy the position, nor a wife I could 
not be true to without an effort. Fifteen or twenty 
years' time ! But what was that I heard Georgina 
say to Mrs. Bryant ? " Your niece, Nannie, v^lio is so 
like yoio." Can that be true ? Is Nannie like Mrs. 
Bryant ? I have not noticed much resemblance. Mrs- 
Bryant has not Nannie's noble brow, nor that heaven 
in her eyes, that peace in her smile. She has not 
Nannie's courage, her steadfastness, her generosity, 
her merriment. Heavens ! how merry she is ! ' 
Vincent's thoughts here ran into a siding, and he got 
no further in the comparison between Mrs. Bryant and 
her niece. What lover ever is able to picture the 
appearance of the beloved after the golden halo of 
youth and passion shall have gone, and years shall 
have blurred the face and sunk the figure ? ' She is 
as much like my mother as she is like Mrs. Bryant,' 
said Vincent ; ' surely my dear mother will be fond 
of my treasure when once she knows her ! ' Wliich 
reflection brought him back to Nannie's relations 
again, and to the question if he would be doing well 



284 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

in persuading her to violate their wishes, supposing 
he could accommodate his own conscience to dis- 
pleasing Lady Katharine. And Vincent sighed, and 
said regretfully, ' But disobedience may be no more 
necessary than violence. Patience and perseverance 
may induce that gentleman of the gaiters to consent ; 
ay, and with secret joy and concealed alacrity. 
There was that in his eye which asserted pretty 
loudly that he is as good as we ; and verily I admit 
that he is more than probably right. But that 
being his view, I suspect he would not unwillingly 
prove his theory by affinity with his landlord. 
Ye gods ! I am averse to gaining the consent of 
Nannie's relatives, for it will entail friendliness with 
John and eke with Caroline.' 

By this time Vincent had left the train at 
Henslow station ; had sat for some time at the inn 
waiting for a horse ; had encountered his grandfather, 
the Earl, and been lectured by him about things 
in general ; had driven to Faverton and descended 
from his hired trap at the door of John Eandle's 
pretentious and comfortable house. 'My cogita- 
tions have led to nothing new,' he said, finally, as 
he rang the bell ; ' I never do get farther than the 
point from which I start. It is unsuitable ; but I 
can't do without her. I mean to have her, for no 
better, but for no worse reason than this — / love 
her! And then the words of an old song rang 



DOUBTING CASTLE 285 

through his thoughts, and he caught his breath 
anxiously — 

' Oh dear Life ! when shall it be, that mine eyes thine eyes 
shall see, 

And in them thy mind discover, 
Whether absence have had force thy remembrance to divorce 

From the image of thy lover ? ' 

*Mrs. Eandle,' said the intruder, oppressed by 
Maria's air of alarm and agitation, 'I have seen 
your husband this morning, and I have come here 
with his knowledge to speak to ]S'annie. You will 
put no difficulty, if you please, in my way, but will 
be so kind as to beo: that she will come to me at 
once.' So he breasted the waves of the Eubicon. 

' Oh dear, oh dear, sir ! ' cried Mrs. John, ' Nannie 
isn't here ! She has run away ; and whatever my 
husband will say to me for letting her go, I cannot 
think ! ' 

Vincent looked at the woman questioningly and 
was silent for a few minutes. ' She will have gone 
home,' he said at last. But he trembled. Yes, he 
had led Nannie into difficulties. 

'No, sir. What she has done is this. She as 
good as warned me yesterday. Slie has run aiuay 
to her cousin Alich' 

The gentleman's sudden pallor startled Mrs. 
Eandle. It seemed to presage calamity. But he 
answered very calmly — 



286 MR, BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

' Wherever she is, Nannie will not come to harm. 
She is not one to be distrusted.' 



GHAPTEE V 

For the first day or two with her sister-in-law 
Nannie had not been uncomfortable, for she needed 
time to think and to regain her strength. And if 
she were no longer to look for her lover and to 
listen for his step upon the sea -shore or the 
sheep -tracks of Everwell, why should she care 
to remain there ? Nannie petitioned for some 
stamps and letter-paper, and when Mrs. John 
asked her rather sharply to whom she wanted to 
write, the girl did not answer at once, but sat with 
her arms clasping her knees, looking out at the 
fields where in her childhood she had ridden the 
barebacked colts. But she had always loved 
Everwell and the sea far better, and had been more 
at home with Alick and Mrs. Leach. 

' To Aunt Ann,' she replied ; ' she was like a 
mother to me. All the boys and girls are like my 
own brothers and sisters.' 

' Yes,' said Maria, severely, ' Patty told me you 
cared more for those vulgar people than for your 
own folk.' 



DOUBTING CASTLE 287 

' Oh, I do wish Aunt Ann had been my mother ! ' 
exclaimed Xannie, with a sudden sense that that 
arrangement would have saved the difficulties about 
Alick. 

' Well, I suppose you can write to her if you 
wish. Only you must show me the letter. There's 
one stamp for you.' 

' I have another letter to write,' said Nannie, 
blushing. Maria recaptured the stamp. 

' Who's that to ? If you don't say, you can't do 
it, Xan. It's not my doing. It's John's. I've got 
to read every letter you send out.' 

' I think I could manage so you might read it, if 
you must ; only I do want to write to him once.' 

' To him ? To that young gentleman ? Xannie, 
aren't you ashamed ? ' 

' Xo, I am not ashamed. I want to tell him I 
have given it up, and gone away, and am never, 
never, never going to see him again ; and that, oh 
yes ! I hope she will be fond of him and he of her ! 
Dear Maria,' and Xannie knelt down before her 
sister-in-law and put her arms coaxingly round her, 
kissing her dress bodice, ' be a little wicked for once, 
and disobey John, and don't read my letter. I'll 
give you my word not to put one word as I oughtn't ; 
or as would make him think I didn't mean what I 
was saying about gi^^g him up ; or as you mightn't 
see ; only I can't hear the thought of any one but 



288 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

himself reading my letter to him, even if it was only 
two stiff words. Do, do, Maria ; just for this once, 
and there's an end of the whole thing, though it 
nearly breaks my heart to say so.' 

Maria of course resisted this pleading, and over- 
came the impulse to kiss the delicate blue -veined 
face with its sad smile held up to hers. 

' Then there was something more between you 
and Sir Vincent than you let out to John ? ' Nannie 
coloured. 

' I can't remember exactly how much I told 
John. He flustered me by beginning about wicked- 
ness and things we had never even thought of.' 

Maria smiled sneeringly. ' If you weren't such 
a child, Nan, you'd have known that a young gentle- 
man well, no matter ; only I guess the good- 
ness came more of your doing than his. Tell me 
the whole thing now, Nannie.' 

' There is nothing to tell ; and I'll promise you 
one thing,' cried Nannie, with her ever ready smile, 
'that I'll never, never fall in love with any other 
gentleman till my life's end ! ' 

' You sha'n't write unless John gives you leave,' 
replied Maria, grimly. 

And so my poor sorrowful Nannie waited and 
nursed her grief in silence. When she was alone, 
tears would gather in her fair eyes, and she would 
sit gazing at the well -stocked lawns and fertile 



DOUBTING CASTLE 289 

fields, and longing to be home at Everwell ; and 
sometimes she stormed a little, and stamped her foot, 
and thought Providence unkind because it had not 
made her a lady, and fit to mate with the man she 
loved. But downstairs Nannie was neither sulky 
nor doleful, and Maria told her she'd give a deal 
for her gay nature ; for Nannie was splendid with 
the baby ; and while she was stifling in her heart 
the very aching thought, ' I shall never be anybody's 
wife ; I shall never have a darling of my very own 
to nurse and to cuddle and to kiss, because he is 
like his father ! ' all the while she was singing in her 
sweet tones — 

' Bye Baby Bunting, father's gone a-hunting ! ' 
and the child was poking his fat fingers into the sunny 
dimples of her smiling cheeks. Maria marvelled. 

' Do read me what Jolin says in his letter/ said 
Nannie one day. 

' Your father is much the same. Nan. John 
doesn't know what to make of your Dr. Verrill.' 

* Oh, he is such a dear, funny man ! ' cried 
Nannie, ' and a very good clever doctor ; only, you 
know, nobody but Alick ever thinks of doing exactly 
what he says. Please, Maria, what does John say 
of Alick ? Nothing ? I wonder at that when I 
asked him so particularly. John was to give him 
my note. Don't you remember ? ' 

' I daresay he forgot it. It wasn't very important.' 

VOL. II 38 



290 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

' Maria ! Why, he promised ! It was important. 
I will write to John myself. And I will write to 
Alick. And if I don't hear, I must go home. Alick 
is very important.' 

Maria wrote to her husband : ' You had best say 
something of that fellow in your next to keep her 
quiet. She is very good and I like her, and I think 
it's all right about the gentleman. But I see she's 
a flirty sort, and can't do without a sweetheart. She 
wants Alick after her, as she can't have the other. 
I'll try if I can't introduce some steady young man 
here to her ; Adam Carter maybe.' 

Nannie knew not why, but she began to be 
restless, and her fears about Alick returned. She 
missed his familiar presence. Here at Faverton she 
couldn't help remembering how of old she used to 
long for her dear brother Alick, — yes, of old in the 
long-ago days, when if she had walked across 
Faverton Park she had cared no more (to her know- 
ledge) for young Mr. Vincent than for elderly Sir 
Charles himself, who had once chucked her under 
the chin, and had said, ' You have a bonny little 
daughter, farmer.' 

' If only Alick hadn't mixed things up so ! ' 
sighed Nannie, thinking over her girlhood ; all con- 
nected with Alick and his dependence on her. She 
took out poor Alick's long wild letter and read it 
again. ' What does he mean about going away ? 



DOUBTING CASTLE 291 

Oh, I do hope he has lost that idea that God has 
failed him! I wish he would not turn to me so. 
But I do hope John gave him my letter, that he 
may know I have forgiven him.' Next day, how- 
ever, when another despatch came from John 
Eandle to his wife, there was still no mention of 
AHck. 

' Oh, it is strange ! ' cried Nannie, ' when he is 
such an important person ! AMiy, he is a great man ! 
if he had lived in Palestine, the 'kiTigs would have 
listened to his words. And one would think John 
had never even heard of him ! ' 

'My dear,' replied Maria, 'ranters aren't ac- 
counted of by educated folk.' Nannie talked so 
much more of her cousin than of Sir Vincent, and 
with so much greater vehemence, that Maria believed 
the danger from the ranter by far the more serious ; 
and she pooh-poohed Alick loudly, half disappointed 
that the girl could put the romantic gentleman 
aside so easily and interest herself in a vulgar 
Methodist. 

Then came a scribble from Mrs. Leach: 'My 
dear, my dear, has my boy gone to get you ? For 
he ain't been here since Sunday, and I miss you 
never so ! ' 

Nannie dropped her letter in a fright. ' Oh, 
Maria, do let me go home ! Aunt Ann wants me, 
and she doesn't know where Alick is ! I am so 



292 

afraid there is something wrong with him. Oh, do 
let me go home ! ' 

Maria said little, but she gave the girl no 
money, and seldom left her a minute alone. She 
wrote to her husband that this Alick was a bore, 
and that it had been all nonsense about Sir 
Vincent. 

At last John in his conjugal correspondence 
alluded to the prophet. ' Nan must put that chap 
out of her head. I wasn't out in time to get her 
message to him that morning, and when I looked 
for him he wasn't about. He's left his mother 
without any means, and his workshop is closed, and 
he has gone off, on the spree I take it, the preaching 
game being up. I heard of his being seen farther 
down the coast playing the fool, drunk I suppose. 
Tell Nan I won't hear his name out of her lips 
again.' 

' You had better read it yourself, my dear,' said 
Maria, and expected a storm. But the girl merely 
turned very white, and was long silent. Maria was 
relieved ; congratulated herself upon the child's 
shallow feelings, and having great faith in the 
power of the palate, prepared her an extra dainty 
for her supper. She kissed the unresponsive 
Kannie, resolved to ask Adam Carter to breakfast, 
and wrote to John that Nan was the pattern of 
gentleness and never sulked. 



DOUBTING CASTLE 293 

But the girl carried Johnny into the granary, 
where it was quiet and sunny, and he could tumble 
about, happy in amusing himself ; and she sat silent, 
her chin on her hand, and a look of settled sorrow 
and growing resolution on her fair young face. 

When she came down to tea her mind was 
made up. 

' Maria,' said Nannie, quietly, ' I must go home ; 
Alick is in great trouble and misery, and I am sure 
he is ill. If he came to harm I should never for- 
give myself Whether you and John like it or not, 
I must go.' Maria temporised and Nannie said little 
more. 

But presently Mrs. John stepped into the laundry 
to have an explanation with an insolent laundry- 
maid ; and the altercation took some time. Nannie 
had put the child to bed, and had left him, as usual, 
safe, rosy, and slumberous. She listened for a 
moment. No sound of Maria. Nannie went into 
her room, dressed herself, and left the house, walking 
slowly, as if she were doing the most natural thing 
in the world. As soon as she was out of sight of 
the windows, she ran. Her light foot was untiring 
and fleet. She had escaped. She was going to 
Alick. 



294 MR, BRYANT'S MISTAKE 



CHAPTEK VI 



' If only I Lad one of the colts ! ' she said to herself, 
smiling. ' But no — people would stare.' Two women 
were passing her now, and she walked sedately, like 
any other young person going an errand at dusk. 
They looked at her, for Nannie was too pretty to be 
passed by man, woman, or child unnoticed, but they 
had no suspicion that she was running away. Then 
came a great cloud of dust along the high road, and 
Lord Henslow, driving himself with a friend beside 
him, stopped and addressed her. 

* Can you tell me, my good girl, if that lane is 
open the whole way ? I heard it was stopped in 
the spring.' 

' There is a big hole at the end, my lord, but 
you can drive through the field on the left side. I 
did it yesterday in the spring cart.' 

' Oh ! Who farms those fields down there to- 
wards Faverton ? ' 

' My brother, John Eandle, my lord.' 

' Thank you.' They drove on, the old man, who 
j)rided himself upon knowing all about everybody, 
trying to remember if he had ever heard that farmer's 
name before. His companion was expatiating on the 
young person they had consulted about the lane. 



DOUBTING CASTLE 295 

' One feels inclined to take a girl of that sort and 
get her up as a lady. That amount of beauty is so 
rare, it should not be hidden. Why, she had feature, 
complexion, grace, everything ! None of our wives 
and daughters are so complete. But transplanting is 
too dangerous an operation for flowers of the kind. 
They wither at once ; or, if they grow, we fancy they 
develop a rank odour from the fields, and after a 
time some one treads them down ; probably the ex- 
perimenter himself 

' I never heard of such an experiment,' replied 
Vincent's grandfather, taking snuff. 

Nannie had walked on a little flurried by this 
encounter. She was sorry she had disclosed her 
name, though, in the event of her being inquired for, 
it was unlikely that any one would consult Lord 
Henslow. But she couldn't help remembering that 
she, little Nannie, might have been his grand- 
daughter-in-law. It was ridiculous to think of. Sir 
Vincent must have seen it. She ran on. She was 
nearing Henslow now, the trim village where was 
the railway station and the beginning of the outer 
world. The next place was Karley-le-Street, the 
market town. Nannie hoped herself unknown at 
either place, in spite of her peach-bloom cheeks and 
red hair. 

' I could walk a long way in the dark,' she re- 
flected, ' but what am I to do without money for the 



296 MR, BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

train from Karley ? It is three hours from Karley 
to Tanswick. I wonder if they would take me as 
goods ? It would be cheaper.' 

Hurrying through Henslow, she heard a sound 
of wheels behind her, and looked back fearfully. 
As sure as she was alive, it was John's smart gig 
and the white cob, driven frantically by one of the 
farm servants, Maria herself sitting by his side. In 
a moment they would be upon her. She had been 
missed, pursued, and now here she was, recaptured ! 

Nannie had presence of mind. Before Maria, 
who was short-sighted, could see her, she had 
darted into the church, where vespers were going 
on. She heard the gig thunder past, but she did 
not emerge. She was shaking all over with fright, 
and guessing her sister-in-law's movements. Maria 
would go straight to the station, whence the last 
train for Karley would dawdle off in about twenty 
minutes. She would, of course, suppose the runaway 
aiming at that. ' As I should have done if I had 
had one little sixpence,' said IsTannie, ' but she would 
have caught me then. She will know I couldn't 
have got farther than Henslow. Oh dear ! I am 
afraid to go on and I am afraid to stop here ! What 
am I to do ? ' 

Nannie lingered in the dim, religious light of the 
church, not listening to the wearisome young curate, 
who was droning the prayers. She abandoned her- 



DOUBTING CASTLE 297 

self to mere rest and reflection. Then the service 
abruptly ended, and the congregation dispersed all 
of a minute. Nannie crept out too, though the train 
for Karley was gone by this time. She had, in fact, 
lost all chance of getting on to-night at all, for the 
last eastward train left Karley-le-Street an hour and 
a half after the arrival of this little branch one, and 
there was now clearly no time to catch it by walk- 
ing. Nannie peeped out cautiously from behind a 
tombstone, and descried the gig drawn up in the 
blacksmith's yard nearly opposite ; the cob's white 
nose was peeping out, and Maria herself sat in the 
blacksmith's doorway, talking to him and keeping a 
sharp look-out on the road. And as it was getting 
dark, the blacksmith had accommodated her with a 
dark lantern. 

' I shall never get by ! ' said Nannie ; ' some one 
must have told her I went into the church.' She 
crept round the churchyard, but it was walled, and 
had only the one exit, which led to the high road. 

' Whose carriage is this ? ' asked Nannie, idly 
standing beside a brougham with a pair of horses, 
waiting at the church door and out of sight of Maria- 

' Eh, but girls are inquisitive cattle ! ' said the 
old coachman ; ' would it lighten you much, my dear, 
to know the name of my mistress in Karley who 
has sent to fetch the young priest to dinner, when 
he's done burning incense to the Virgin ? You are 



298 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

just Papists here in Henslow. The priest's a pretty 
boy, and he's a-dressing himself in the westry, and 
if he don't look sharp he'll keep my missus awaiting 
with her dinner.' 

' How long does it take to drive to Karley ? ' 
asked Nannie, patting the horses. 

' Half an hour and a bit. Half an hour without 
the bit if the priest gives me a florin. He won't. 
He's poor. That's why she sends for him. She 
loves the poor, when they are popish that is, and 
young and glozing. My missus,' continued the old 
man, ' is one of them women what's led by priests. 
That's one half women ; t'other half runs after 
soldiers. You're one of them latter, my dear, I 
suppose ; and I been a soldier myself in my day.' 

To the coachman's astonishment, Nannie knocked 
at the vestry door. 

' Come in ! ' roared the curate, obviously in a 
fuss, and Nannie intruded as he was in the act of 
arranging his collar for the dinner party. His 
domicile was at some distance from the church, 
hence this slightly sacrilegious arrangement. He 
looked appalled by his visitor ; but after a moment's 
embarrassment on both sides, he and she, a mere 
boy and girl and both with a sense of the ludicrous, 
involuntarily smiled and became friends at once. 
Then Nannie assumed an air of great dignity, and 
told him a story. 



DOUBTING CASTLE 299 

' I beg your pardon, sir, but I am in a difficulty, 
and I thought perhaps you would help me. My 
name is Eandle ; and I have been staying with my 
sister-in-law at Faverton. But my father lives at 
Everwell, beyond Tanswick, and he is ill — very ill. 
And I am hurrying home. I have walked in from 
Faverton, but the little train is gone ; and now I 
sha'n't be able to catch the train from Karley, and 
I don't know what to do.' 

' Dear me ! ' said the curate, brushing his hair, 
' how unfortunate ! Your parent ill. How distressing ! 
Shall you telegraph ? ' he suggested, helplessly. 

' No, sir,' said Nannie ; ' but your driver says you 
are going to Karley. It is very presuming of me to 
ask it, but would you give me a lift into the town 
in your carriage ? ' 

' The carriage ! Bless me, has the carriage come 
already ? How late I am ! The Psalms were very 
long,' he grumbled to himself. Then he made a 
dash at the water-jug, knocking over the soap in his 
fuss. * Good heavens ! what lias become of the 
towel ! ' he cried, in despair. 

Nannie found the soap under the bookcase and 
the towel mixed up with the surplice, and handed 
them to the spiritual guide with the gravest counte- 
nance in the world. Nevertheless she was very 
near laughing, and so was the clergyman. 

' Can I help to put your books away, sir ? ' she 



300 MR. Bryant's mistake 

said, solemnly ; ' it is very bad to be hurried so.' It 
was at this moment that the young curate observed 
how pretty she was, and felt himself blushing. 

Presently he hastened out to the grand carriage, 
and Nannie ran after him. 

' Here, Thomas,' said the curate, waking the 
coachman, ' this young — young — ' 

'Woman,' suggested Nannie. 

' — has missed her train, and wants to be set down 
at Karley station. That won't be much out of our 
way, I think. She hurries to a dying parent,' said 
the curate ; * will you get in, Miss — Miss — ' 

' Eandle,' said Nannie again, and offered to go 
outside, trusting to a screen in the fat coachman. 

' No, no. I'll go outside,' said the curate, gal- 
lantly, blushing again furiously as he sprang up 
beside the astonished servant. 

Nannie did laugh very heartily in the depth of 
the soft carriage as she rolled undetected past her 
sister-in-law, and was borne swiftly towards Karley. 
' I have become carriage company sooner than I 
expected,' she , said to herself, remembering ' my 
lord ' and his high stepping horses, not unlike 
the admirable pair that were carrying her along 
now. 

Upon entering the town, Nannie espied a house, 
with a red lamp under three gilt balls, and upon 
the doorstep an untidy -looking woman with a 



DOUBTING CASTLE 301 

child on her arm. ' Clothes bought and sold ' was 
inscribed upon the lamp. 

' That's the very place I want/ thought the girl, 
and put her head out of the carriage window. ' If 
you please, sir, I shouldn't hke to take you out of 
your way, I'll get down here and walk to the 
station.' The fat coachman drew up at once, and 
Nannie jumped out, ' I am, oh so much obliged, sir,' 
she said to the curate, and the light from a street 
lamp fell on her light figure and lovely face. The 
curate held out his hand. 

' I — I — I — ' he stammered, and Thomas, who 
did not approve the proceedings, whipped up the 
horses, and setting the carriage in abrupt motion, 
cut short the curate's remark. The latter could not 
help wishing his rich and amiable hostess was as 
young and pretty as the mysterious wayfarer whom 
he had brought to Karley. 



CHAPTEE VII 

' I AM not, I hope, too late to do some business,' 
said Nannie ; and presently found herself in a very 
untidy and ill-lighted den, where was a strong odour 
of ancient garments, stale tobacco, and fresh onions. 
I want five and threepence for the train, and I hope 



302 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

I have something you can take so as to give it to 
me.' 

' Yon have some " jools " maybe to dispose on/ 
said the woman apathetically, but studying her 
visitor all the same. 

' ;N"o ; but I have my dress. It is a good one. 
What will you give me for it ? ' 

' You can't go without a dress, my lamb. What- 
ever would your ma say ? ' 

' I can go without a dress if you can sell me 
some sort of tidy jacket, for I have a good fishing 
petticoat underneath. Only you must be quick, for 
the train won't wait. See, it is a good useful dress 
and not ugly.' 

' ;N'o, it ain't ugly ; but then it ain't a bit stylish. 
I can do with it for five and threepence, if you are 
sure I won't have trouble from your ma.' 

' And you'll give me the jacket in,' said Nannie, 
who knew she was being cheated. 

'No, not in. Here's one you can have for a 
shilling, that'll fit you.' 

'But I haven't got a shilling, and my dress is 
worth more than that.' 

' There's your hat ribbon ; it's worth ninepence ; 
that'll do.' 

' Well, I have no time for bargaining. Yes, you 
can have the ribbon, for I hate it. Here, give me 
the money and I'll take off my dress. Five and 



DOUBTING CASTLE 303 

sixpence you might give me, for I am hungry, and I 
should like threepence to take to that eating-shop 
there.' 

* Well, I won't be hard on you for threepence. 
Are you a servant turned off your place ? ' 

' Oh ! ' exclaimed Nannie, suddenly, ' I don't 
think I can do it ! I never came so low as to wear 
other folk's clothes ! This jacket is dreadful 1 ' 

' It's clean,' said the woman, eyeing Nannie's gray 
stuff dress covetously. ' I had it off a very decent 
body who died of a cough last week.' 

' Take it away ! ' cried Nannie, horrified. 

' Here, father,' called the woman, feeding her 
baby, ' here's a young person wants five and three- 
pence and won't part with her gown. Come and 
serve her, will you ? ' A man with a pipe in the 
corner of his mouth appeared. 

' I am afraid I have nothing else worth so much,' 
said Nannie, wishing herself away. 

He turned her round as if she were a lay figure, 
Nannie submissive, but defiant and rather frightened. 

' If your hair warn't red I'd have that,' said the 
man ; ' it ain't bad otherwise.' 

' Be quick, if you please,' said Nannie, haughtily. 

' I'll give you the jacket in,' called the woman ; 
' I don't mind that gown of yourn so much.' 

' Stop a bit, stop a bit,' said the man, ' don't you 
hurry, missus. Here's a summat. You've a jool 



304 MR. BRYANTS MISTAKE 

here. I'll give you six shillings for it at a 
pinch.' 

' No, thank you/ said Nannie, coldly. But she 
blushed very hot indeed, and put her hand over 
Vincent's ring. 

' Ten shillings then. Who gave it to you ? ' 

' Here, I'll have the old jacket,' said Nannie, 
turning to the woman ; ' beggars mustn't be choosers. 
Where can I take my dress off, ma'am ? ' 

' I say now, what be you after ? ' said the man, 
' you don't look like a beggar. I say, look 'ee here. 
Pop the jool. You shall get it back afore your 
sweetheart knows,' 

* My boots ! ' exclaimed Nannie, suddenly hold- 
ing out her foot to the woman ; ' will you give me 
five and threepence for my boots ? ' 

' No ; they haven't " louis quince " heels and are 
rubbed at the seams. We haven't no old ones your 
small size neither.' 

' My boots and stockings. They are good woollen 
stockings. I knitted them myself. And they are 
nearly new.' And she sat on the counter with 
her trim ankles stuck out for approval. 

* I wouldn't mind them stockings for myself. Bill,' 
said the woman, ' and the boots might fit Florrie. 
We'll be having the Board down on us if we keep 
her from school for ever.' 

Nannie had bared her feet in a moment, relieved 



DOUBTING CASTLE 305 

by an alternative , to the jacket, that had belonged 
to a cough and a corpse. 

' I never see such a gal ! ' said the woman, pro- 
ducing the money. 

Nannie tucked her little white feet up under 
her as she sat in the train, and remembered 
that tie had said they were pretty. ' Sell my 
red hair, indeed, when lie liked it ! Oh, if it 
was for his sake I was going barefoot, how happy 
I should be ! But there never is anything I can 
do for him, though I love him so. He is too 
great to want anything / can do. I would cut my 
right hand off for him ; I would indeed. But I am 
only allowed to help Alick. I am only able to 
help Alick.' 

Oh, how fresh the salt air at Tanswick felt to 
Nannie, when late in the autumn night she descended 
at the roadside station ! It was her home, this wild 
district ; she had loved no other place. There was 
a bright moon, which glittered on the sea, and shone 
upon the wayside stones and the roofs of the 
Tanswick cottages. Nannie's little hurrying feet 
gleamed white as they twinkled under her dark 
skirts. The tide was high, still plashing sullenly 
against the cliffs. She paused once to listen to the 
wavelets, which were eating away the crumbling 
rocks ; as surely, though less conspicuously, than 
their stormy brethren, which had brought down the 

VOL. II 39 



3o6 MR. BRYANT S MISTAKE 

crashing boulders a fortnight ago. What was the 
nse of resistance ? Nothing could check the ad- 
vancing might of ocean, — washing down a few 
crumbs of sand and clay hour by hour, eating out 
the heart of the cliff, till in the day of violence 
there was no power of resistance left, and the 
stubborn rock could only break and fall. 

' Oh, what have I done ? ' murmured the girl. 
' Alick has been wearing away at me year by year, 
and I have let him, and I have yielded to him, an 
inch here and a yard there, till some day he will 
ask for all, and I shall find no way of escape. A 
dreadful weight and burden has been laid upon me, 
for I have to help and to save him, and perhaps 
there is only the one way it can be done. For it is 
all, all ended and over now between my dear lover 
and me, and he told me himself I must choose be- 
tween him and Alick. And have I not chosen 
Alick ? Have I not had to choose Alick ? And 
perhaps it will be necessary, and the best thing for 
us all, and the best hope for him, if I — Perhaps 
it will come to that. Perhaps it will come to that !' 
And she wept and implored Fortune's pity, but there 
was only the moon and the waves and the wild sea- 
birds to hear her ; and all the while her bare little 
feet were carrying her on to Aunt Ann and the 
children and her poor Alick, who would think she 
had come to yield herself to him. 



DOUBTING CASTLE 307 

Till she was nearing Everwell ; when her heart 
failed at the thought of entering, and her sobs 
shook her poor, tired frame, and her eyes were 
blinded so that she could no longer see her path. 
Not yet — not yet could she go down the narrow 
steepness of the village lane, creeping along silently 
with bare feet, like a guilty thing, frightened at her 
own shadow upon Alick's threshold. Not yet could 
she leave the stillness, and the loneliness, and the 
truce-making night. Wandering about like this in 
the moonlight, no one knew where she was, and she 
was still free. Vincent's ring was still burning her 
throat, though its meaning was almost gone ; and 
Alick did not yet know that she had come, — and 
perhaps to be his slave. 

She turned and lingered long about the Heights, 
hoping desperately that her lover might see her and 
come out, if only to bid her good-bye for ever, and 
to listen to her sobbing tale of woe. But the old 
house was fast asleep by this time, and how could 
he know that she whom he loved best was outside, 
lonely and weary and sorrowful, wanting him ? 
Had he come to her then, much of the future had 
been different, both immediately and in the months 
and years to come — different, and for some, perhaps, 
better, and for some, perhaps, worse. Possibly 
Fortune hesitated before she threw the cruel die 
of that hour. Perhaps the rousing hand already 



3o8 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

trembled over the sleeper's head ready to unseal his 
ears to the sob below his window-pane, to open his 
eyes to the yearning hands stretched out to implore 
his help. And perhaps the unseen Power questioned 
even painfully with herself whether after all the 
hour of these lovers had not come, and the love of 
each were not chastened enough, and true enough, and 
strong enough to be given its will, and to be hence- 
forward a continuous blessing to the hearts and lives 
of both. And perhaps, alas ! the unerring dispenser 
of Fate still misdoubted one of them, the man or the 
woman ; or misdoubted even both ; their courage or 
their constancy, their generosity or their wisdom, 
or their perfect faith. For sadly often is even the 
best of us, when tried in the balance, found to be, 
if but a very little, still, for perfection — wanting. 

The awakening touch on the sleeper never fell, 
and presently the invisible hand led the weeping 
girl hopelessly away ; calling out bitterly against 
that Fortune which it seemed had wholly turned 
against her now. It is the hardest task in the 
world to justify to men the ways and the wisdom of 
Fortune. 

' Vostro saver non ha contrasto a lei ; 

Ella provvede, giudica, e persegue 

Suo regno, come il loro gli altri Dei. 
Le sue permutazion non hanno triegue : 

Necessita la fa esser veloce ; 

Si spesso vien chi vicenda consegue. 



DOUBTING CASTLE 309 

Quest' e colei, cli'e tanto posta in croce, 
Pur da color, che le dovrian dar lode, 
Dandole biasmo a torto e mala voce. 

Ma ella s'e beata, e cio non ode ; 
Con I'altre prime creature lieta 
Volve sua spera e beata si gode.' 

AYhat need to tell Nannie's further wanderings 
that night ? Her goal was sure, and it was only a 
question of when she reached it. 

At three o'clock, her bleeding feet noiseless on 
the cobblestones, she came to Mrs. Leach's door, and 
sat on the threshold, and had one last long sob 
before going in and beginning the work that had 
called her home to Everwell. In a moment she 
would knock at the door and waken the house, and 
ask them to take her in. And she pictured Alick 
— the light sleeper — the sorrowful keeper of \4gils 
— hearing her summons the first, opening to her, 
seizing her and clasping her to his heart. ' IN'annie, 
Nannie ! my faithful Nannie ! She has come ! ' 
And she would weep and would not allow herself 
to turn away. ' Oh yes, Alick. Dear forsaken, 
wounded Alick ! I am here. I have forgiven. I 
have come.' 



310 MR. Bryant's mistake 



CHAPTER VIII 

After a few moments Nannie became aware that 
this house was still awake ; and before she could 
surmise what this could mean, Sally, dressed, tired, 
and tearful, with Jimmy in her arms, heavy with 
sleep, looked out at the door. 

' You are standing on my toe, Sally !' protested 
Nannie, nearly smothered by kisses ; ' and look, I 
have no shoes on, and you have great naily boots ! 
Whatever is the matter that you are all up so 
late ? ' 

' We been praying for yo. Nan. We'll be getting 
Alick back next. Come in, Nannie, do. Dearie, 
will you ask mother to let some of us go to bed ? 
Polly's fallen twice on the floor, like him Paul 
broke the neck of, and mother just sats her oop 
again with a shake. She ain't old enough to pray 
the whole night through, even if she cared about 
Alick, which she don't. Mother's a wonderful hard 
woman to manage, Nan ; you never know how 
religion nor anything will take her. She's been 
looking awful green in the face this last half hour, 
and I feel myself that a deal of fervent praying at 
once is like a tossing on the sey in a boat. That's 
why I came out to get a sup of air.' 



DOUBTING CASTLE 311 

Xannie pushed past her cousin and went into the 
parlour, where she found several persons assembled. 
The scene had something piteous in it, regarded as 
a survival of Alick's short spiritual reign, and his 
prayer meetings largely attended and keenly relished. 
Most of those who had clustered round the hungry- 
eyed prophet, hanging on his lips, thrilled by his 
touch, obedient to the workings of his soul, had 
to-day been drinking in the beer-house and making 
obscene jests at his name. But here and there 
were a few faithful disciples, who, if they were in 
despair about their ruined prophet, had yet retained 
some hold upon his teaching. And one such was his 
mother, poor Mrs. Leach. 

The round table with the children's school prizes 
had been pushed aside, and the widow and her 
children were on their knees upon the floor. Mrs. 
Leach, her grizzling hair hanging over her wet 
cheek, was in the middle of the room, supporting 
herself by the weeping Lizzie and the less rebellious 
of the two boys (for Tom was off with the Eestora- 
tion rioters). Little Mary Anne was too sleepy to 
cry, but her pretty face had black rivers all over it, 
her weary head was rolling from side to side and 
her form swaying, while with desperate hands she 
clung pitifully to the tablecloth. The baker's wife 
and the faithful Samuel Dykes were present also, 
and apparently in fairly good condition. The scene 



312 

was grotesque of course, but Nannie could not 
smile at it. 

'Mother, for pity's sake, break off a minute,' 
said Sally, looking in. ' Nannie has come.' The 
baker's wife rolled to her feet, and the children 
jumped up with an air of relief; but Mr. Dykes 
shook his fist at Nannie, and Mrs. Leach held down 
the struggling Lizzie and Charlie, and continued her 
address to the Almighty without change, except that, 
from petition for the restoration of her poor boy, she 
passed in the one sentence to thanksgiving for the 
seasonable arrival of that blessed angel, her poor boy's 
beloved, who was the wholesome and handsome and 
feeling young wife appointed for him by Heaven. 
It was going a step too far, and Nannie interrupted — 

' Auntie dear ! I think baby will take fits 
lying with his head to the fire. There, Lizzie, 
carry him away. Wake up, Polly, and run off 
too ! It's bedtime now. And tell Sally to 
leave somewhere a corner for me. Let Charlie go, 
auntie.' And Nannie forcibly removed the de- 
taining hand. Mrs. Leach, ever an actress, fell 
forward in a heap on the table, all the while con- 
tinuing her eloquent address to the Invisible. 

'Nannie,' said Lizzie, who was almost in hysterics, 
' as sure as I'm alive, mother has gone crazy.' 

An altercation between Nannie and Mr. Dykes, 
however, brought Mrs. Leach to her senses. She 



DOUBTING CASTLE 313 

started to her feet in the middle of a sentence and 
said quite cheerfully — 

' It's borne in upon me, from the Spirit, that 
there is such a thing as wearying the Almighty, and 
I was maybey over hasty in summoning an all-night 
assembly.' Whereupon she pushed them all out, 
and then fell delightedly into Nannie's arms, and 
asked what had become of her shoes. 'And I do 
believe I am going to swoon for the pleasure of 
seeing you, my angel. Don't you think, Nannie, 
a drop of summat would have been good — if I 
hadn't taken the pledge — to keep off swooning V 

' No, auntie, I don't,' laughed Nannie, and put 
Mrs. Leach in the arm-chair, she herself kneeling by 
her side with her arms round her. 

' I have found a sort of benefit in the pledge,' 
reflected Mrs. Leach. 'My dear, my dear, you'll 
have to get my blessed boy to sign the pledge him- 
self, leastways till he has a hold of the Spirit again.' 

' Has Alick been drinking, auntie dear ? ' 

' I don't know. Nan. I don't know what he 
hasn't been doing. But I saw him yesterday, my 
dear, and God knows what he had on his mind. 
It ain't the kind of drunkenness I have experience 
of. "Ann," that's what Jim Leach used to say, 
" there never was a pleasanter woman than yourself 
when you have a drop in you." But it don't seem 
to take Alick so.' 



314 MR. Bryant's mistake 

' Aunt Ann, where did you see Alick yesterday ? ' 

' In the workshop, Nan, like natural ; though 
we han't seen him since the church had the fit, 
and no one in the villages could tell us nought but 
silly scraps of him. And you gone, my lovey. And 
your father like to die to-night ; and John, your 
brother, as bad-natured a young man as there is ; 
and Bryant all talk, and an ill sort of talk too ; 
and poor Emma not a woman of sense ; and all the 
children took crazy with fright about nothing. Oh, 
my dear, my dear, the trouble I've been in 1 ' 

' Didn't you speak to Alick, Aunt Ann ?' 

' My dear, I talked a deal, but Alick never said 
nothing. It's his head as does it, Nan.' 

' I'm afraid so, aunt. You remember what Sir 
Vincent feared for him ? ' 

' La now, Nannie !' exclaimed Mrs. Leach, ' that's 
the silliest young man as ever I see ! Alick's no 
more wrong than me, only his head's a queer un, 
specially if he gets into trouble. He mustn't have 
trouble ; that's all.' 

* Auntie, dear. Sir Vincent meant no more by 
what he said of Alick than that, that he goes queer 
now and then. I believe he would be all right if 
he was happy and quiet. All that preaching was 
too exciting.' 

' But, Nan, you mustn't make queerness an 
excuse for not making him happy. It ain't of a 



DOUBTING CASTLE 315 

kind to make a bad husband. He don't go stupid 
or muddling, or throw knives at folk, like Mrs. 
Line's young man, acause the kettle boiled over. 
I wouldn't deceive you. Nan.' 

*I'm not afraid of Alick, aunt. I was always 
able to bring him to reason with a little patience. 
I don't count a few thumps and pinches such as I 
don't think other men give their sweethearts.' 

' He have pinched me too sometimes. He ain't 
mry good-tempered. Men aren't, saving Jim Leach ; 
if you are waiting for a second Jim Leach, Nannie, 
you'll die a maid.' 

' I wish I might.' 

' My dear, to the end of my days I shall feel as 
there's summat disgraceful in an old maid. I should 
never have thought you the lass to mind a pinch or 
two, Nannie, for reason's sake. Maybe he was 
jealous of thee ? ' 

' He was.' 

' And maybe you gave him reason. Nan ? ' 

'Maybe I did.' 

' It doesn't follow as he'd be jealous without 
reason.' 

' Oh, I know he wouldn't. That is not it.' 

' Then what is it, my dear ? You are of an age 
to be married now, and you haven't any other young 
man. I never was one for waiting when I had a 
good offer. " Sally, my dear," I says to her, " if ever 



3i5 MR. BRYANT'S MISTAKE 

you have a young man as is well-to-do, and a good 
workman, and honest and religious and thought on 
by rich and poor ; and has an ugly thumb belike, 
or a cut lip or suchlike, don't you be waiting for one 
with straighter fingers or bigger moustaches. Grirls 
who do that are like to end single, as they began. 
The men can't abide such particular women." May- 
be it's Alick's shoulder you can't stomach ? ' 

'iN'o, aunt, I could do with his shoulder. Let 
us not talk of it any more till we have found him 
and got him like himself again. I couldn't be so 
disrespectfid to myself as to marry him while he's 
tramping the country and making people think him 
tipsy, or wild, or worse.' 

' Oh, my dear, my dear, do pray the Lord to 
take pride out of your heart. Pride is a wicked 
thing, IsTannie. And it's all love to you has misguided 
him. And I cannot believe you'd have come back 
alone, in the middle of the night, and never a shoe 
to your foot, without you was sorry for your teasing 
and meant to marry him ! ' The girl rose ; she had 
turned pale, but she spoke quietly. 

' N'o, aunt, I have not come back sure I will 
marry Alick. Of course Lve been thinking of it. 
It is not pleasant for a woman to feel she is driving 
a good man wild for love of her. I wish I could 
make Alick happy. I love him very much in some 
ways, but I can't be sure I could marry him. I 



DOUBTING CASTLE 317 

care about myself too a little, and I know I should 
not be happy with Alick as his wdfe. Alick him- 
self would repent having got me, if he found I didn't 
love him, but loved some one else better, and was 
always fretting that I couldn't be with him, and 
half wishing to run away to him. Some women, 
when they are married to men they do not love 
best, find they cannot bear it, and they do run away, 
and bring great shame and misery on their husbands. 
How can I be sure I am stronger and better than 
all the women who have done that ? I am too fond 
of Alick and too careful of myself to marry him if 
I thought there w^as any chance of its ending so.' 

' But, my dear,' said Mrs. Leach, much bewildered, 
' you are a respectable girl, and you have no young 
man but Alick.' 

' That is true enough,' said Nannie, w^earily. 
Mrs. Leach went to bed in a very comforted and 
pious frame of mind. But Nannie was not yet 
allowed her hard -won rest ; for when she had 
climbed the steep stair, with the intention of creeping 
into her old place in Sally's bed, she found the 
three elder children still up and waiting for her 
with anxious faces, showing the relief they felt at 
the arrival of a capable elder. They also had to be 
comforted. 

' Nannie, dost thou think mother has gone crazy V 
said poor frightened Lizzie. 



3 1 8 MR. BR YANT S MISTAKE 

' Liz must be crazed herself/ said the boy, ' for 
she's sartain every one else is.' 

' Well, she's had a scare,' said Sally ; ' it ain't un- 
natural. Nannie, dost thou think Alick is crazy ? ' 
she asked in a low voice, clasping her cousin's 
arm convulsively. Nannie looked at the frightened 
childish faces, and felt that her fears must be kept 
to herself 

' Well, I'm going to bed !' said Nannie. ' I'm 
determined / won't go crazy anyhow.' And then 
they all clustered round her and pleaded, 

' Nannie, do, do marry Alick, and then it will all 
come right.' 

' But I'm such a May-pole ! ' said Nannie ; ' why 
must I have all the weight on my shoulders ? I am 
sure, Sally, I'd never cry if I was as big and strong 
as you !' 

' La, Nan ! you are the merriest dear !' said 
Sarah, affectionately, and soon the big girl and all 
her brothers and sisters and their mother were fast 
asleep, while Nannie watched on. 

' I won't think,' she said to herself. ' I'll say 
the tables, and fancy sheep jumping through a fence, 
and listen to my breathing. I will sleep. It will 
be time enough to think to-morrow. I'll find 
Alick ; and to-morrow is the day when he told me 
long ago he would ask me again. I had forgotten 
it ; but I am quite sure he has not forgotten. And 
when he asks me 



DOUBTING CASTLE 319 

' Xo, I won't think. Good-night, Myself. 11" 
you open your ugly eyes again, I will stick hairpins 
into them. You shall go to sleep, Myself, so as to 
be strong and able to laugh to-morrow, and to cheer 
people up. It seems you have been sent into the 
world to do that ! Twice one are two ; t\vice two 
are four ; twice three are six. I am not sleepy yet. 
Twice four are eight. Oh dear, I do wish I could 
go to sleep ! and sleep, and sleep, and sleep, and 
never wake up any more ever again.' 



END OF VOL. II 



G. C. & Co. 

Printed by R. & R. Clark, Edinburgh 



If